Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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How Fentanyl Has Become Everyone’s Issue

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Fentanyl has been making headlines, with drug use and abuse  becoming topics of discussion amongst health-care providers,  paramedics, and the police, but this potentially lethal drug is now  affecting the general public. How can you be affected?

 
When a patient has suffered some kind of painful trauma, it is not uncommon for them to be prescribed medication to help manage their pain. Fentanyl, like morphine and oxycodone, is an opioid, a class of drug that is prescribed for a variety of conditions and has incredibly powerful pain-relieving properties. After OxyContin (a stronger version of oxycodone) was pulled from the market, there was a window open for illegal drug sales. OxyContin was not only popular for people who became addicted as a result of over-prescription, it also appealed to heroin users. When production began booming on these illegal opioids, drug producers began importing more powerful ingredients from China, creating Fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Often, they would repackage the drug to their customers to make it look like OxyContin, leaving the user to either fatally overdose or become addicted to an even more powerful drug.

This issue brings to light the concern around drug addiction, and how important awareness is around prescription pain relievers.   A majority of prescription drug use doesn’t start out as a quest to get high; instead, people become addicted over time after being prescribed powerful medication.

If you are prescribed a powerful medication, make sure to ask your doctor and pharmacist about the side effects and any addictive qualities, and ask for a minimal number of pills and strength to start. Also, ensure you take your medication as prescribed, at the correct time of day and the correct dosage. If you have kids or young adults living in your home, make sure your medication is safely stowed away. For those living with addictions, whether it is to prescription or street drugs, the ramifications in the workplace can be seen with absences, missed deadlines and erratic behaviour. Be mindful of changes in fellow staff members’ behaviours and offering support is the first step to getting them help.

Another issue brought to the forefront is awareness around drug use amongst family members. Many parents of young adults who have overdosed or unknowingly took Fentanyl from a dealer had no knowledge of their son or daughter’s drug use. Certainly the challenges surrounding substance use are difficult for the individual as well as their familial supports, and often these supports need external help to cope.

If you or someone you know is living with drug addiction, talk to your EAP provider. Young students can speak to their SAP, or Student Assistance Program, at their school for confidential resources. There is help available and professionals with whom to discuss the painful issue of addiction. You don’t have to do this alone.

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Tips to Surviving the Holidays: Dealing with Holiday Stress in the Workplace

Holiday stress tipsThe holiday season is about “good tidings”, the pleasure of gift-giving, and spending time with loved ones. Given the stress involved for many to ensure a happy holiday, many employees are feeling the burden of managing their personal lives in addition to their job workload.

A recent study of over 700 full-time employees found that a large percentage indicated that the biggest stressor during the holidays is work, but that the stress changes. The concern becomes whether work obligations will affect their holiday celebrations and many also feel stress from not being able to take time off from their job to prepare for and enjoy the holidays.

Time and money are two other large factors in an increase in stress during this busy season. Is there enough time for shopping, party planning, and cooking, in addition to their workload? The pressure of buying gifts is also a significant stressor for those concerned about being able to pay the bills the following month.

This increased stress can lead to lowered output at work. One survey showed that over 40% of respondents in management roles reported that productivity noticeably decreases the week before the holiday. There are multiple ways you can help lower the stress during the holidays, including some of these tips:

  • Be flexible – It is likely many employees will request time off around the holidays, so if possible, allow for these days by asking staff in advance if time is needed, to allow for smooth functioning in the workplace .
  • Simplify – Minimizing the number of workplace obligations when there is an increase in external holiday get-togethers can reduce stress. A festive workplace party doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be enjoyable.
  • Emphasize value – Appreciation is particularly effective when given during this busy season to maintain performance levels at work.
  • Offer assistance – If employees are showing a lack of focus or irritability, have a chat to find ways to manage their workload.
  • Relieve deadline pressure – Hiring extra hands, even temporarily, can help to alleviate stress on your permanent staff.

Whether it’s stress from work, family or finances, aiming to improve stressful situations within the workplace can create a more relaxed atmosphere with higher levels of productivity.

What is your business doing to alleviate employee stress within the workplace this holiday season?


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Awareness of EAPs Can Significantly Increase Their Value

0 - blogIn the challenging busyness of our everyday life, workplace stresses and deadlines, caregiving to children and elderly parents, finances, and relationships, all can become an overwhelming experience. Remaining positive and still being able to offer your guidance at home to our loved ones and to our employees at work, can become a burden. Knowing where to turn for help is a large part of accessing help, but when our emotions are maxed, we don’t always remember what resources are available, their value to us, and how easily they can be accessed. This is exactly why EAP services are so essential for the wellbeing of your business and your employees to make it run effectively, and it underscores the importance of “spreading the word”.

As you may know, three of the biggest issues facing businesses today are employee retention, absenteeism, and loyalty. If your employees are struggling with personal issues and work issues, it only makes sense that they might be distracted from their work and, as a result, be less productive. It is often the case that these issues could sometimes be prevented, and utilizing an effective EAP can make your employees feel more supported, and give them the help and tools they need to improve their personal and professional lives to reduce these issues in the workplace.

Despite the fact that there are so many obvious benefits to having an EAP in your workplace, why are these programs still so underused or not even used at all? About 80% of Canadian employers have an EAP, but only 8% of employees actually make use of these services!

Why might your employees choose not to use your EAP, even though many of them would benefit from their services? I can think of four common responses:

  1. Our employees don’t think an EAP is entirely confidential.
  2. They don’t see EAPs as a preventative resource, just one to access in need.
  3. Our employees think their EAP only offers psychological support.
  4. They don’t even know it exists!

How can you encourage a change in your employees’ perceptions of using an EAP? How do you make your employees aware of what exactly an EAP is, and the benefits of using the services they provide? Well, I’d start by addressing the above four misconceptions:

  1. Access to your EAP is 100% confidential. As an organization, it’s important to communicate this to employees. An EAP cannot confirm nor deny an employee’s participation in the EAP without written consent from the employee(within legal limitations).
  2. Break the stigma in your organization! Reassure employees that no one is immune to experiencing personal issues on and off the job, and that seeking assistance before issues become unmanageable is beneficial to them personally and professionally.
  3. Reiterate to your employees that their EAP is so much more than counselling – it also provides coaching, legal, financial, nutritional services, and management support at no cost to them. .
  4. Make your EAP provider’s phone number available, and let your employees know that all they need to do is make the call 24/7.
    1. Ensure employees are aware of the full range of services available to them, using any and all communication channels. There is a direct correlation between the promotion of your EAP and the utilization of your EAP. Make EAP education a part of your employee onboarding and training process. Don’t let employee wellness and productivity suffer when help is readily available.

Education and communication are the best ways to encourage employee use of your EAP and overcome any stigma attached to it. As your employees start to understand that your EAP is a completely confidential service to help them deal with life’s challenges before they become too much to handle, awareness and acceptance will increase, and trust and comfort will be engendered. The use of your EAP will rise, in turn increasing employee wellness and productivity.

Are employees in your organization encouraged to reach out for help, even before issues become difficult to manage? What tools does your organization have in place that can be used to communicate EAP benefits? What other ways of communicating the EAP to employees can you suggest for an organization?


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5 Tips to Keeping the Glass Half-Full During Turbulent Times

ASP TuesdayHow do you maintain positivity in a world that can be seemingly negative?

Watching the news, I am inundated with a series of negative events after another. Just recently, China’s stock market crash is being felt throughout the world.

This challenge of maintaining the glass half-full attitude can even come from the simple transition of summer to the inevitable winter. It can come from adjusting from the slower more relaxed summer hours to the busier regular hours.

As a business owner and manager, the challenge is trying to keep our employees happy and positive as this has a huge impact on their ability to be productive. This can be particularly true if the job requires front line interaction with your customers.

In light of recent troubling news events, I’ve drawn up a list of 5 simple actions you can implement to encourage a positive workforce.

  1. Recharge the batteries

Low energy can be a barrier to maintaining a positive outlook. If you sense fatigue among your workforce, you may need to reenergize them. For example, giving staff the option to work from home one day a month, or the ability to leave early on Fridays of a long weekend, can be just what is needed to provide balance to your employees.

  1. Create a company team/club/activity

Company softball teams are a great way to boost health and morale within the organization. Softball teams are the most popular but it can just as easily be a hockey team, a bowling team, a book reading club, or any activity that involves group cooperation. The purpose of these activities is to create fun and also encourage employees to support each other by thinking positively (cheering). You may even want to consider running a team activity where you give back to the community like Habitat for Humanity.

  1. Praise and acknowledge

There is a level of uncertainty brought about by difficult economic times. For some employees it may cause uneasiness about job security, prospects, and career progression. Therefore, it is even more important that you assure your employees through recognition of their work. This can be done from a small scale through cards or treats to remind your staff that you appreciate their work, or even on a a bigger scale by implementing an employee recognition program (e.g. Employee of the Month).

  1. Hire a professional

Depending on your workplace environment and the situation you may want to consider reaching out to a professional to mediate. Look to your EAP services for motivational speakers, seminars, counselling programs, personal coaching, or even a nutritionist. Your employees will appreciate all the resources you can bring to them, particularly if they are feeling stressed.

  1. Last thing: It starts with you.

As a leader within your organization, employees look at you to set the tone. As a decision-maker you have the ability to influence the direction and culture of the organization. Therefore, as Gandhi famously said, “you need to be the change that you wish to see!”

What is your mindset? Is the glass half empty or half-full?


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Learning to “Unplug” – The Benefits of Mindfulness

beach-workerAhhhhh. You finally have that relaxing moment on the beach, at the cottage, reading a good book, listening to music, or watching a movie, that feeling of relaxation, of contentedness, without a care in the world. Then you hear it, that inescapable sound, the ping: “You have mail”. And your reality comes crashing down on you: someone wants something from you that is work-related. You are instantaneously brought back to the work grind as all of prior emails you’ve written or have been sent to you hit you right between the eyes. That fleeting moment of bliss is gone.

In past blogs, we’ve talked about the ways a quality work-life balance can be achieved, but how can we really unwind when not in the office?

Newsflash: “Unplugging” (at home or in the car or on that beach), and not allowing the Pavlovian-like reaction of turning our heads towards the “pinging” of our smartphones is beneficial to our health.

Taking a break from emails, and smartphones in general, can help employees pay more attention to family and friends when they are away from the office, becoming more productive and better focused while working. A study by University of California, Irvine (UCI) and United States Army researchers revealed that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and physically experience less stress. The study showed that participants who had email access changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates, while those participants who were disconnected from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates. According to the study, the latter group reported feeling better able to stay on task.

Not being distracted by smartphones and email allows us to be more involved in the present, whether we are at work or on vacation. When we can practice mindfulness,(self-regulating our attention to the experience we are having at the moment), we can reduce our overall stress. Bringing awareness to our current experiences – the moment – promotes a feeling of relaxation, and more and more businesses are offering training programs to their employees in mindfulness. The findings of the aforementioned study provide fodder for employers to help their employees control email log-in times, batch messages, and create new strategies to reduce their email stress.

Two more thoughts for the day: a recent study has shown that teenagers who take their smartphones to bed get a poorer quality of sleep than those that turn their phones off. The generation of people (kids, teenagers, and adults) who have grown up with smartphones are losing the ability to have focused and meaningful conversations with their loved ones because they are distracted by their smartphones while simultaneously having the conversation.

Do you agree? What ideas do you have that could manage our email stress? Do you think mindfulness training would benefit your workplace? I invite your comments and suggestions below.


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Taking Action Against Sexual Harassment

GETTY_B_111611_SexualHarassmentOn my blog last week, I posed some questions to get you thinking about your organization’s preparedness for incidences of sexual harassment in the workplace. This week, I want to dive into the actual steps and procedures you must consider when handling these difficult situations.

Recently, greater responsibility has been placed on organizations to identify and support employees who are in a state of distress or exhibiting other emotional issues. But as we all know, it is not always easy to identify these individuals.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an employee come forward, there are a few imminent steps to take.

  • Gather as much detail as possible
  • Determine if immediate medical attention is necessary
  • Determine if the employee is safe or in imminent danger
  • Create a supportive environment
  • Identify resources available to the employee

If you’re having concerns about an employee, but they’ve not come forward, there are still necessary actions you should take.

  • Monitor their behavior over a period of time (specifically mood patterns, performance, and attendance)
  • Keep records with dates and situations of observed behaviours
  • When sufficient information is gathered, you should approach the individual to discuss the concerns in a private and confidential manner
  • Create a supportive environment
  • Remind the employee of the resources available to everyone and how to access them

The sad reality is Domestic Violence is the fastest growing type of workplace violence in Canada. Not only does Domestic Violence affect the victim, it can impact the entire workplace, through absenteeism, lowered productivity, and safety concerns for the victim and his/her coworkers.

We all contribute to making the workplace a safe, supportive place, so understand your role and make sure you’re doing your part.


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Engage, Don’t Enable: Confronting alcoholism in your employees

AlcoholismAs Rob Ford weathers the storm of his alleged substance abuse problem, there needs to be something we can learn from his experience other than to choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. The Toronto mayor is certainly not the only person whose drinking habits have been called to attention in the workplace. As alcohol abuse becomes one of the greatest health threats to Canadians in recent years, employers must prepare themselves to engage in dialogue about this disease and become familiar with signs that an employee might be suffering.

Technically, drinking habits may be the personal business of your employees, but once a substance dependence problem emerges, it will inevitably affect business. Absenteeism, on-the-job injury and accidents, missed deadlines and poor workplace conduct are only a few of the detrimental outcomes of alcoholism, and the employer has a responsibility to address it as an issue once productivity is compromised.

Maintaining the welfare of your company and your employee’s health as main priorities is good business, and there are strategies you can implement in your company  to help you, the employer, mitigate the costs  of substance abuse. 1.

  1. Ensure that you have clearly communicated your expectations for conduct and performance in the workplace. Only with these expectations in place can you effectively measure when employees are failing to meet company standards.
  2. Schedule regular feedback and review meetings to promote a culture of improvement and transparency with individual employees. Having frequent dialogue will make it easier to broach any changes or declines in performance you may observe.
  3. Learn to recognize changes in performance, attendance and work relationships. Alcohol dependence can affect an employee’s ability to carry out commitments, meet deadlines and maintain healthy relationships at work. Knowing your employees well will help you more easily identify changes in their performance that could be brought on by substance abuse.
  4. Keep thorough records of observations. Ensure that you make note of incidents as they occur so that you are able to better record trends and patterns that support your concerns.
  5. Contact a representative of your EAP for support. A consultation with the EAP  will help you initiate difficult conversations and make available various resources.
  6. Be prepared to address  the issue with your employee.  Compare what you are currently observing with the employee’s performance against what the job expectations are.
  7. Set a measurable action plan with the employee that articulates the corrective action required to improve the work performance and include a time frame for the desired outcomes to be achieved.  Encourage the employee to access the EAP for support in executing the plan.   Be clear that failure to change the performance or conduct and seek help could result in disciplinary measures or dismissal.  Have the employee sign off on the document.
  8. Continue follow-up with additional conversations as necessary, including meeting with the employee on the formal review date (as set out in #7 above).

 

Although it might be uncomfortable to address such a sensitive issue with an employee, having a list of resources available (EAP) beforehand will assist you with offering support.

Your involvement could make a significant difference in the quality of someone’s work and personal life, thereby increasing your productivity as an organization

Have you ever seen the benefits of someone seeking help and returning to the workplace?  I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments below.