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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What Does Your Company’s Dress Code Say About Your Workplace Culture?

A recent decision by Starbucks to allow its employees to wear any hair colour they like has sparked the dress code discussion again. Dress codes are not one-size-fits-all anymore; they really should reflect your company’s workplace culture just as Starbucks feels that this move balances the demands of employees with its brand and reputation.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past that all I’d see in corporate offices were formally-dressed men and women, regardless of their positions or the type of company they worked for. This rigid corporate philosophy has now gone the way of the floppy disc. In fact, according to the 2016 Employee Benefit Survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, approximately 50% of workplaces have a business casual dress code in place, 22% of companies offer a casual dress code for the entire week, and 40% enforce a casual dress code on Fridays only.

Does allowing more casual attire in the workplace increase or decrease productivity?

I’ve read many studies on this issue and there is no clear-cut answer. There are those who believe that if employees are allowed to dress casually, they’ll be more comfortable and happier and therefore more productive. Others believe that casual clothing results in a casual work ethic and therefore employees will be less productive. One study sponsored by The Master’s College in California published the following conclusions: “There is an effect on… performance in the workplace because of casual dress… Casual dress has equally positive and negative effects, and… dress codes may or may not be necessary for professional performance.” In reality, there is no way to predict how a dress code will affect the performance of your employees.

Here are some points to consider when determining the dress code for your company:

  • The nature of your business – financial institutions and law offices will typically have much more formal dress codes than web designer agencies where most coders dress like Mark Zuckerberg. Also, do you regularly see clients at your office? The answer to this question may determine what is appropriate office attire. Perhaps you consider two dress codes, an internal one for the office when you are not seeing clients and an external dress code when you are visiting clients.
  • Ask for input from staff through a survey – Just as Starbucks changed their policy on hair colour to meet employee demands, I recommend that you consult with your employees when establishing a dress code, to consider their requests.
  • Be clear what is not appropriate and indicate why – wearing flip-flops to the office (more appropriate for a beach), for example, may actually be a safety hazard.
  • A trial basis of a new policy – to see the effects, positive or negative, consider a 3 to 6 week trial and ask for feedback through another survey. Checking in with your staff can make them feel heard and appreciated.

What do you think your company’s dress code says about your workplace culture? Would you consider changing it?


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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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Getting Out of a Rut

stuck-in-a-rutAlthough we move along in our lives at a frenetic pace, we don’t often stop to take time to reflect. When things change in our environment, like the sun setting earlier or tragedies like the Ottawa shooting just last week, or the Ebola world crisis, we can wear down. Days of feeling lost, confused and less hopeful can turn into weeks, and before you know it, you’re in a rut and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves feeling lost, confused, unmotivated, and simply “blah”. Things feel like they may not be going your way, and each day you feel less hopeful about that changing. Before you know it, you’re in a full-on rut, and unsure of how to get out of it.

External factors can contribute to your rut, like feeling the effects of cooling temperatures and less sunshine each day. We turn on the news and are bombarded with tragic and disheartening events of terror and fear, like the previously mentioned Ottawa terror of last week. It should come as no surprise that the world definitely has a hand in how motivated and inspired you are in getting out of your rut.

So with all that is happening around us, how do we manage to self-motivate and return to a place of peace and happiness? I’ve provided some tips designed to help you turn things around quickly:

  1. Rediscover what you love doing.

Make a list of the activities you love most, and choose one to do each week. If it’s something big, work on setting small goals/taking small steps towards making it happen.

  1. Actively change your thinking.

Think of a few areas of your life where you’re feeling “stuck”, and write down exactly what is making you feel that way. Then, think about the same area in a different way, this time shedding a positive light on it. Contrast your first statement with a new, optimistic one!

  1. Do something different.

Being in a rut means you are in a negative pattern of thinking. They always say you can’t expect different results with the same actions, so do something different, something you may not otherwise think of doing, like booking that massage, going for a brisk walk, or savouring that orange, one piece at a time. You don’t have to make major changes, think about your behaviour and what you can change to produce better results for you!

  1. Say “yes” more!

If we all said “yes” to the many opportunities, big or small, that we have presented to us each day, we’d open ourselves up to so many exciting experiences and be able to learn and understand so much about ourselves. Make the most of your time each day.

  1. Embrace change.

Accept change as a good factor in life, not one that causes discomfort or disarray. Routines are not always your friend! Taking the fear out of change will help you feel calmer and more prepared for curveballs in life.

It is important to remember that being in a rut is not necessarily a bad thing – it signifies a chance for growth and positive adjustment. We will all go through periods where we must realign ourselves to our surroundings in an effort to settle back into a place of peace and comfort. It is much like a spaceship that has veered off course. If it is not corrected, it could lead to disastrous results. Use these tips to help you find your happy place!

Do you have any personal techniques you use to get yourself out of a rut? Share with us in the comments!


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Handling Change – Tips from an EAP Expert

change2September, although not technically the end of the calendar year, marks the end of summer family vacations, a new season, the start of the new school year, Jewish New Year, hockey season, fall TV programming, new EAP services, and the final quarter for business results.  It seems that psychologically, September is the true new beginning and with it comes a lot of change.

When we discuss dealing with change, the conversation inevitably turns to conversations about stress.  Did you know there is good and bad stress? Eustress (pronounced You-Stress) is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye and literally means “good stress”.

It is important to have eustress in your life. Eustress motivates and energizes you to work on a task that may require some effort and even prove challenging but results in huge satisfaction.

Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. Potential indicators of eustress may include responding to a stressor with a sense of meaning, hope, or vigor. Eustress has also been positively correlated with life satisfaction and well-being. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable and/or manageable that distress comes in.

Bad stress, or distress, is when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds, and there is no longer any fun in the challenge, and often no relief or end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision-making.

One way to cope with change is not to expect that you can eliminate it; but rather, to manage the symptoms of stress. I’d like to share with you a few good tips to help you manage your stress and become more stress-resistant.  These tips take time and commitment; so keep trying to integrate them into your life for a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.

  1. Stress is perception.  What is stressful for you may not be stressful for me.  It is how we perceive our situation that causes our stress.  Change your perception slightly, and your level of stress lessens.
  2. Be decisive. Make your own path. There really are no right or wrongs.
  3. Avoid being a perfectionist. Accept that we all make mistakes and these often serve as the best lessons in life.
  4. Set priorities for yourself. If you can gain control over your situation, that often can help reduce stress, so decide what really has to get done and what is not a life and death situation. See what happens to your stress when you simply let things slide (Phew!).
  5. Praise yourself. We often forget to look at ourselves and the things we’ve accomplished. Don’t forget to take a look at yourself and appreciate what you’ve been able to do.

How do you handle change? Have you felt eustress before and if so, do you think you would be as successful without it? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.