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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3 Ways to Engage Your Millennial Employees in Workplace Wellness

Millennials-at-work_AckermanCo-SeriesJust like the baby boomer generation, millennials are driving a culture change in the workplace. Organizations are realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to benefits and workplace wellness is simply no longer feasible. With millennials now comprising more than one-third of the workforce, and will be 75% of the workforce in 2025 (Deloitte), engaging this growing and influential demographic will be crucial to your business. Millennials are seeking out employers who make employee engagement a priority, and are looking for a company that offers a great learning environment, opportunities to get involved in the organization and community, and has a fun, supportive culture. Here, I suggest some things to consider when thinking about your workplace wellness programs:

  1. Develop social strategies

To engage your millennial employees you’ll need to be creative. Create social and fun opportunities and devote a significant portion of your time to team-building and encouraging socializing. How about an evening paintballing, or at an escape room? Embrace social media, smart phones and other online platforms and encourage employees to join in. While some may view this as a potential distraction, it can ultimately help your business by turning your workforce into a tight-knit community and facilitating strong communication between your employees. Organizing St. Patrick’s Day activities, get a mini air hockey/foosball table for the lunchroom, a chat group (like BBM) to specifically connect about work and non-work-related topics, or plan to surprise your employees for example, serving pancakes for breakfast. These are small things that allow your millennial employees to connect and socialize at work as well as outside of work.

  1. Managers act as mentors

Millennials crave regular feedback on their work, not because they want to be patted on the back every time they complete an assignment, but because they want to do solid work. Millennials often seek out feedback as a way of growing in their jobs and ensuring that their work is valuable to the company. One of the reasons why millennials are so interested in performing well, receiving feedback, and earning recognition for their work is that they are very interested in career advancement. Millennials tend to disengage quickly if they feel stuck in a dead-end job. Your millennial employees are looking to their managers for mentorship, and think of them as more than just a “boss.”

  1. Provide flexibility

While millennials can be highly dedicated to their work, it doesn’t mean they love the idea of spending eight hours in an office every day. For the first generation of digital natives, the idea of an office can feel somewhat antiquated since they are aware of how much work can be accomplished with no more than an Internet connection. It may seem counter-intuitive, but while many millennials are extremely interested in forming meaningful connections with their work and their fellow employees, they also tend to view themselves as being more independent than workers from earlier generations. You may find that you will get the most productivity out of your millennial employees by giving them the freedom to work remotely when possible, and by creating a casual office environment that allows employees to move around and work in groups. Video conferencing also allows staff to virtually sit in on all company meetings, collaborate, and have important conversations without anyone missing a beat.

These are but a few wellness suggestions that will need your attention in order to support your millennials help you grow your business. To be successful, you must take a proactive approach to meeting millennials’ needs. Ask your millennial employees what they look for in a workplace and what means most to them. Although culture change often takes time, beware: Millennials are accustomed to rapid innovation; they expect tomorrow’s wellness program today!


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3 Steps to Help Your Staff Work Smarter not Harder

hardsmartThere is a misconception in many workplaces that working harder and putting in longer hours will lead to success, but in fact working overtime can lead to a lack of relaxation time and tip your work-life balance in the wrong direction.

A recent study by HR Magazine found that “34% of people check their email as soon as they wake up every day, 38% of people check their email after work at home every day and yet 46% felt that it was a task and not email that detracted them away from more important work they prioritized.” Taking on too many tasks and needing to rely on working late to complete them can affect your mental wellbeing.

As employers, we want our employees to work hard and meet targets and deadlines, yet there is some degree of pressure associated with this. Pressure can be a great asset to productivity, but it can also cause detrimental effects on the health of your employees and in turn on the business.

Let’s face it, there’s no catch-all solution to a stress-free day in the office, or a cure for eliminating stress altogether. But there are positive steps you can implement on a day-to-day basis to ensure your staff is working smarter and not harder, yet still ensuring you meet your business targets and deadlines.

  1. Take Frequent Breaks 

Although the employee standard at many companies is to take 15 to 20-minute breaks after 4 hours of steady work, it is rarely put into practice. In fact, on average, your brain is able to remain focused for only 90 minutes, and then you need at least 15 minutes of rest. (The phenomenon is based on ultradian rhythms.) By giving your employees breaks roughly every 90 minutes, you allow them to renew their mind and body and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.

  1. Improve Time-Management Skills

Provide time management training for your employees. It will help them use their working hours more efficiently, feel more in control, be more productive and more secure in their jobs. Good time management skills lead to increased job satisfaction because it allows your staff to feel more relaxed and in control.

  1. Schedule Concentration Time

Encourage workplace culture that allows staff to block out some time every day when they can’t be disturbed except in an emergency. Let them use that time to get the most important tasks of the day done. Allow staff to close the door to their office, or move to a meeting room for an hour to ensure they have this blocked time.

Although the number of hours in the day will always remain the same, letting your staff know there are ways to adjust their habits that will allow them to work smarter and buy more time for the things that matter most.

What tips do you have for working smarter?


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Engage Your Employees This Summer and Have Some Fun

businessman-on-beachIt’s summer – the sun on your face, a balmy breeze and a cool drink are a few reasons we all love summer, but as an employer it can be difficult to keep staff engaged in their work. How can you compete with the allure of summer?

Apply the old expression “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Seize this opportunity to engage staff with your own “summer perks” plan that will make them feel more supported, appreciated, and inspired at work.

I have outlined below several ways you can help make your work environment more enjoyable and healthy for your employees during the summer months.

  1. Summer hours – consider offering summer hours for employees. Ask them to come in an hour earlier each day for 4 days and then they can leave at 1pm every Friday.
  2. Relaxed office dress codes – you may want to consider giving your staff some leeway on your dress code in the summer, including wearing golf shirts, casual sleeveless shirts, etc. The more comfortable employees feel while in the office, the more their heads will be in the game.
  3. Special Summer Events– You might want to consider hosting special events throughout the summer to celebrate your employees’ devotion while maintaining their engagement. You could offer anything from a smoothie machine once a week, to chair massages, ice cream treats, or an employee gathering outside of work hours. These efforts can go a long way toward showing your appreciation.
  4. Sponsored Events – depending on the size of your company, you could also consider arranging discounts with local businesses like sports teams or amusement parks, so your employees can enjoy some summer fun at a discount.

 
As the owner of an EAP company, I know that sunshine has positive effects on people’s sense of well-being. This can decrease possible incidents of depression, boost motivation levels, relieve tension and generally make everything seem more fun.

Have fun making your employees smile this summer!

What is your company doing to celebrate summer? Any tips on what has worked and what hasn’t worked in helping create a summer perks plan for your employees? I look forward to hearing about your perk plans and successes.


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It Was Going So Well…Until…

picAs business owners and managers of people, we are responsible for the safety and security of our employees, enabling them to become as productive as possible. But no matter how much we think we are prepared to manage our workday in a safe environment, no organization is immune to a critical incident. How can you possibly prepare for the unpredictable, no matter how prepared we think we are for such a sudden disruption? And what if that critical incident involves one of your key personnel? How will this affect the management of your organization?

You may or may not know that help is available through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Student Assistance Program (SAP).

As the owner of a company focused on providing health solutions that empower organizations and their people, I have years of expertise dealing with employers in organizational crisis situations. Below I have outlined a few case studies that showcase the breadth and depth of crisis intervention available for organizations to demonstrate the value of implementing a plan to prepare for the unpredictable.

One such incident involved a fire truck, which was en route to an emergency during whiteout conditions when a car crashed into the fire engine. The driver of the car was taken to hospital. The EAP was contacted by the organization, who immediately assessed the incident and rapidly dispatched their trauma team to the site of the tragic accident. Telephone consultation with management was immediately provided. Onsite debriefing intervention was quickly provided for staff that were on the truck at the time of the incident and for others who were indirectly involved (such as the dispatch personnel). Onsite debriefing was given to the fire department staff as a group as well.

Recently, at a post-secondary educational institution, a student was found deceased in their dorm room by their roommate. This traumatic event was one where the school contacted the trauma response service through their SAP. An immediate consultation was provided to student leadership reps and onsite trauma interventions were arranged over a period of 3 days to support students and staff with group and individual debriefings. Counselling services were also extended to the family of the deceased as well.

Another crisis situation where an organization benefited from their EAP’s trauma response program occurred when an employee’s son (known to employees of the company) jumped off a bridge to his death. When the trauma service was contacted, immediate consultation and follow-up was provided to management and an onsite debriefing was given to staff as a group and individually to staff members. The Clinical Response Centre was available to all employees of the organization for ongoing 24/7 support and extensive counselling was additionally provided to the employee, the employee’s spouse, and employee’s daughter.

When crisis strikes your organization, rest assured that there is help. Make sure you are prepared with a plan that accesses specialized defusing/debriefing interventions to provide support through all stages of a traumatic event. It is almost like an insurance policy – you never know when you may need it.


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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.