Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Eating Disorders: What You Need To Know

As someobelly-2354_960_720ne who has worked in the mental health field for 30 years, I’m no stranger to working with clients who have suffered from eating disorders. This past week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a time dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with eating disorders and creating awareness about the mental health issue that affects approximately 1 million Canadians every year.

So what exactly is an eating disorder? In simple terms, an eating disorder is a mental health issue that leaves individuals completely pre-occupied with their weight. However, according to The Canadian Mental Health Association, eating disorders are not just about food. They are often a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated disorders that affect a person’s sense of identity, worth and self-esteem.

Unsurprisingly, eating disorders are most common in females. A recent report found that 3% of Canadian women will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. This can happen for a number of reasons. Female body image is constantly critiqued in popular culture, and as a result, women are more likely to develop disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia in an effort to control their weight.

While eating disorders are more common in females, body image issues impact males as well. Men are exposed to a similar level of body critique, mainly that they need to be muscular and strong. This kind of societal pressure can result in men developing eating disorders or taking hormones like steroids to increase their muscle mass. Steroid use, like an eating disorder, also has a long-term negative impact on a person’s health.

Effects of eating disorders may not always be apparent. For example, anorexia sufferers generally have a very low body mass index (BMI), but people suffering from bulimia often maintain a relatively stable body weight. Here are some tips on how you can identify if a friend or employee is suffering from an eating-related mental health issue.

  • Food obsession
    It’s important to note when someone begins to obsess about food, for example, constantly counting calories or eliminating large groups of “bad” foods from their diet, especially if this was never a topic of conversation before.
  • Excessive exercise
    Physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle, but when you begin to notice someone is taking his or her gym routine to the next level it can be cause for concern. People with eating disorders often attempt to “work-off” the bad calories they have consumed after a binge, to the point where they are putting their bodies through physical discomfort.
  • Body image issues.
    While losing weight can be a side effect of an eating disorder, it can also increase the level of anxiety a person may have towards their body. Even though they may be losing weight, someone suffering from an eating disorder might wear baggy clothes to cover up their body. Take notice if someone in your life begins expressing dissatisfaction with his or her body more frequently.
  • Depression.
    Symptoms of eating disorders often mimic the symptoms of depression due to the lack of energy, low morale and lack of sufficient sleep the disease causes. People suffering from eating disorders tend to isolate themselves from groups, especially if food is involved. If you notice someone exhibiting symptoms of depression while showing signs of negative body image or food obsession, it could be cause for concern.

The impact of any eating disorder can be devastating. From restricting the body of food to choosing to binge eat and then purge, eating disorders can wreak havoc on a person’s physical and mental health. Short-term effects include poor digestion, kidney issues, anxiety and depression while long-term issues include infertility in women or death as a result of malnutrition.

Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, employer or friend, it’s important to know how to spot the signs of an eating disorder so if someone you know is impacted, you can help. Confronting someone about an eating-related mental health issue is difficult, but it’s important to get your loved one the help they need before they cause irreparable damage.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to get help. Contact your EAP or SAP provider for assistance, or speak to a medical professional.

For more advice on this issue, visit The National Eating Disorder Information Centre or CAMH.

 

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How to Deal with Workplace Negativity

63037.PNGWe’ve all heard the expression “If you smile, the world will smile back” – well, the opposite is also true that if you’re negative, others become negative too. In a work environment, it only takes one or two people with a negative attitude to turn what was once a positive work environment into a stressful, depressing, and unhealthy workplace.

Although there are many reasons why employees may be feeling negative, as an HR professional you can help to turn things around before that negative feeling starts to spread to even your most positive employee. Negative and toxic employees can inject their emotional venom into everything if you let them and they are often resistant to change, but you can create an environment that fosters positive attitudes, thereby providing you and your employees support in creating a healthy environment.

Here are my top 4 recommendations designed to help you deal with negativity and toxicity in your workplace:

Communicate and Understand

Communication is always key and when dealing with negative attitudes, it is essential to communicate in an open and inviting way. It may be difficult, but speaking with the person who is causing the negativity and asking them to explain the problem as he or she sees it can go a long way in putting an end to the behaviour. Restate their explanation until they believe you understand their viewpoint. Only at this time, explain your point of view.

Make it Fun

When we build opportunities for fun into the workplace, it fosters positive attitudes and builds the healthy culture we all want. Create a few regular “fun” activities for the whole team to participate in. This could include everything from catered weekly lunches, cooking contests, picture day, or outings when staff can go together to a music festival, stand-up comedy night, or a learn-to-paint night. When you create a “fun” culture, it fosters healthy relationships and builds trust among colleagues.

Neutralize The Negative Energy With Positive Energy

As difficult as it can be when dealing with a negative person, lead by example and remain positive. Encourage positivity at every level and in everything you do as a company or department. The more positive energy, the sooner it becomes part of the corporate culture, combating negative attitudes and restoring employee hope. It’s about ensuring challenges are brought up in a healthy, positive way that doesn’t point fingers but instead collaborates to find solutions and move the company forward.

Find Resolution

Not everyone will change, but you can focus on increasing your understanding of your employee’s position, share with them, and find solutions with a constructive and healthy conflict resolution approach. Look to create an environment that facilitates progress and change. You may want to speak to your EAP provider about a conflict resolution specialist or an interactive lunch and learn on the topic. Finding a resolution isn’t always easy, but it helps teams find the right answers and takes into account everyone’s perspective.

Difficult people are a fact of life, but by dealing with negative attitudes in your workplace head-on, you will encourage cooperation and communication between employees, and foster new and creative ideas for your workplace. The benefits will not only be demonstrated through lowered absenteeism, fewer accidents, and increased productivity, but in creating a healthy work environment for all.


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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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How Do You Measure Workplace Wellness?

static1.squarespace.comIt should come as no surprise that healthy employees boost a company’s bottom line. They experience less sick time, take fewer disability days and suffer lesser risk of premature deaths.

It is good business for companies to help provide employees with the information and tools that will empower them to adopt healthy behaviours.

Despite a growing understanding that happy and healthy employees equal a happy and healthy workplace, wellness programs are still often viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative, and certainly not one that delivers ROI!

First, let me share with you some studies that were conducted on the return on investment (ROI) in wellness programs:

  • Phase 1 findings from The Canadian Return on Investment Study determined that between 1.5 to 1.7 days per employee per year of absenteeism were saved with wellness programs, which translated into an estimated savings of $251 per employee per year (Statistics Canada stated that absenteeism rates ranged from 4.7 days to 11.2 days per employee per year.)
  • Companies such as Canada Life, DuPont, Prudential Insurance and Citibank report a savings of $2 to $6.85 for each $1 invested
  • Returns on healthy workplaces reported by large private sector organizations range from $1.81 to $6.15 for every $1 invested
  • These findings were consistent with those found in a similar Harvard Business Review study:
    • The percentage of Johnson and Johnson employees who smoke has dropped by more than two-thirds.
    • High blood pressure declined by more than half.
    • The pay-off for Johnson and Johnson estimated by their leaders was a cumulative savings of $250 million on health-care costs over the past decade.
    • From 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent. Based on the Harvard study, wellness initiatives save an employer an average of $394 per employee per year, while the programs only cost an average of $159 per employee per year — creating an ROI of $3.36 for every $1 spent.

As a result of Canadian studies with comparable tangible results, many insurance companies are offering percentage reductions in their group premiums for organizations that are committed to forge the world of wellness.

To create your own workplace wellness program with proven ROI, but without investing in a large-scale study, I have outlined below a few simple steps to follow for more effective measurement of your wellness programs:

  1. Gather baseline information about the current status of your employees’ health. This can be done using a health risk assessment (HRA) which focuses on assessing health status, estimating the level of health risk and informing and providing feedback to participants to motivate behaviour change to reduce health risks.
  1. Ensure you work with and incorporate an EAP Wellness Program with measureable services into your workplace wellness plans (seminars, programs, etc.) Identify desired outcomes for the program, based on the health information collected about employees.
  2. Determine a realistic timeline for assessing whether desired outcomes have been achieved, including benchmark progress measurements. In other words, has your baseline data improved after one or two years?

There is no question healthy employees cost employers less in benefits, workers’ compensations claims and lost work days, and improve worker engagement. Armed with this, and strong new evidence that workplace wellness programs can indeed provide a significant return on investment, I hope you’ll be inspired to get involved in workplace wellness!

How important is having a measurable wellness program in your organization? Can you get “buy-in” without ROI? I look forward to an active discussion.