Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Cheers to That: The Importance of Drinking Responsibly

Alcohol.jpegIf you’re one of the thousands of students who spent this past weekend celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on and off-campus, I hope you had a fun, safe, and enjoyable weekend. If, instead, you’re looking back on the weekend with regret, you may have learned that alcohol can have very serious negative effects, especially when binge drinking in public settings.

To binge drink means to consume multiple drinks on one occasion, and tragedies associated with binge drinking, especially for today’s youth, are all too real. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines suggest that women drink no more than 10 alcoholic beverages per week and that men drink no more than 15.

Although I encourage making the most of your post-secondary life, keep in mind the following potential risks of drinking in excess the next time you go out:

Drinking and Driving

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, it only takes one drink to reduce your reaction time while driving. Drinking alcohol can also result in decreased vision, reduced concentration, and inhibited judgement. Even the most skilled and confident drivers can’t keep these effects of alcohol at bay.

Not to mention the potential financial and legal consequences of driving under the influence. It’s illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system if you are under 21 years old. If you’re under 21 years old and you are caught with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above zero, your driver’s licence will be suspended and you can receive a fine of up to $500. Students have enough expenses as it is – impaired driving fines should not be one of them.

For those over the age of 21, the legal limit is technically 0.08, but fines and licence suspensions begin at 0.05.

As a post-secondary student you likely long for and revel in your independence, but if you’ve been drinking alcohol, ensure you have access to a designated driver, take public transit, or use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.

Emotions

Drinking alcohol can enhance our emotions. This can be our extroversion, flirtatiousness, sense of humour, or – for a rare few – anger. Many drink to have fun, to feel good, to relieve stress; but a range of intense emotions such as spontaneity, sadness, anxiety, and anger can be exacerbated by alcohol.

Most people are to a certain extent risk-averse when sober. However, under the influence of alcohol, inhibitions are set free, and what we are left with are carefree revelers who no longer have the acuity to make sound decisions. Potential dangerous situations often are not taken seriously, such as partying on the 18th floor balcony of a high rise apartment, or at a swimming pool, by railroad tracks, in front of traffic, all of which are potential recipes for disaster.

Few would yell or take a swing at a friend or even a stranger while sober, but with alcohol in the system an accidental nudge could result in violence.

If you take a negative emotional turn while drinking alcohol, this may be caused by an underlying mental health concern. Consider making an appointment with a counsellor to discuss these negative feelings.

Sexual Misconduct

Perhaps the scariest of all risks of drinking is the increased risk of being sexually assaulted. Due to lowered inhibition, it’s very possible to be unaware when someone else is acting inappropriately, and a reduced reaction time can make it difficult to ward off unwanted advances.

If you hit it off with someone at a bar or party, be mindful of the other person’s alcohol intake. Under Canadian law, intoxication is considered a factor that affects a person’s ability to consent. Intimacy without consent changes the lives of both parties, forever. When in doubt, get their number and call them when you are both sober.

Always keep an eye on your drink. At large parties and cramped bars, it’s easy for someone to put something in the drinks of potential victims. Never leave your drink unattended.

Students often treat drinking with friends at house parties, at the local pub, or on St. Patrick’s Day as a right of passage or tradition, but it can and should be done with care. When drinking, keep these tips in mind: watch how much you drink, watch your emotional state while you drink, watch what goes into your drinks, and stay safe. If you’re concerned about your state when drinking alcohol, reach out to a trusted friend or family member, school counsellor, or Student
Assistance Program for help.

 

 

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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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Feeling Safe

SafetyMainAs I write this blog, I am reminded that today is Remembrance Day, a day dedicated to the men and women in Canada who lost their lives fighting for our freedom and safety.

In the past month, Canada has been rocked by incidents of violence toward our country and accusations of harassment in the workplace. Victims have come forward and shared their stories with the media and in turn, the public. Where we live and work should be a space that should make us feel safe and comfortable. It is a human right in a free society to feel safe. At work, the Human Rights Code, Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation and the Criminal Code, are safety laws available to employees, yet harassment in the workplace are covered up for years, and still continues.

There are ways we can help create an environment that does not tolerate wrongful treatment of others, but also provides the resources should harassment issues still arise.

Every employee has the right to be treated with respect and has a responsibility to treat others with respect. If a person feels that he or she is being harassed, they should talk to someone that they trust, whether it be a co-worker, a family member or an employee in the human resources department, if one exists. It is important to document these incidents, and inform employees of the policies the employer has in place.

Harassment poisons the entire workplace and affects employee morale and productivity. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as an employer or person of influence to keep your work environment safe and respectful:

  1. Clear Expectations
  • Make sure that the expectations in your workplace are clear – harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
  1. Monitor the Atmosphere
  • Pay attention to the tone of interactions and comments made between co-workers and the use of offensive emails, inappropriate comments, derogatory language or jokes, and check for increased absenteeism or staff turnover.
  1. Lead by Example
  • Model respectful behaviours
  1. Maintain Open Communication Channels
  • Policies, procedures, and resources should be posted visibly in common areas, and senior management should offer an open door.

 

A workplace with an EAP and advanced health management programs that include trauma support will be able to help your employees in their time of need, and aid in their recovery in the workplace. We can all work together to create a safe place where we can work productively and feel supported. Let’s pause today and ask if the recent violence against Canada and harassment events reported in the media have caused you concern for your safety? What steps have you taken to make your office, which is a microcosm of the larger community, a “safer” environment for you, your colleagues, and your staff? Are we doing our part to make our work environment and country a safe place to work and live?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.


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Don’t Dismiss the Possibility of Workplace Violence

workplace violenceA mark of feeling safe in your work environment is that you rarely think about safety. A sense of safety and wellness is the ultimate goal for all workplaces and this can only be truly achieved when safety and violence prevention is addressed openly in the workplace. As much as believing that the chances of a violent episode occurring in your workplace are slim to none, indifference can leave you vulnerable and unprepared for an emergency situation.

Just last Wednesday in North York, Ontario, employees of a Toronto-based HR company, were victims of this kind of violent episode when an employee stabbed four people in the office with a weapon while in the process of being terminated from the company. The victims were sent to the hospital with varying degrees of injuries and other employees subdued the aggressor until the authorities arrived.

The perpetrator was described by his coworkers and neighbours as a mild, friendly, and dedicated family man, making this violent outbreak even more unexpected and upsetting. How are employers expected to keep their work environment safe with such a lack of warning signs?

As much as you cannot be prepared for every possible emergency scenario, employers can put measures and tools in place to be prepared for violence in the workplace:

Workplace Violence Prevention Training: Ultimately, you cannot have a productive, high-functioning work environment when employees worry about their own safety, so organizing violence prevention training can arm employees with tools and knowledge in preparation for the possibility  of a workplace emergency situation. Training also brings the topic into the open, where employees can voice concerns and your organization can engage in dialogue and develop mutual expectations understanding about violence in the workplace.

Workplace Violence Protocol: It’s important that organizations give their employees a clear and concise protocol to follow when an emergency situation arises. Without such a protocol in place, some experts are saying this could be considered as negligent as not having fire alarms. Some organizations are adopting easy-to-remember phrases such as: Run, Hide, and (as a last resort) Defend.

Education from your HR department: Your HR department is equipped with helpful information and educational resources for your employees to take advantage of. Open the lines of communication with your personnel and HR to ensure that people have access to the information they want and need.

Awareness of possible crisis situations: Educate yourself about potentially triggering situations, such as termination, review meetings, conflict meetings, etc. and be sure that you are prepared and ready to respond to an emergency situation.

And finally, while it is vital to understand what reactive measures are appropriate responses to violence, being as proactive as possible in your workplace by taking note of changes and cues will keep everyone safer.

Know your People: While people often are able separate their work and personal life, make sure you take care to notice of any changes in performance or behaviour in your employees. Experts generally recognize that workplace violence occurs when troubled employees encounter troubling situations, so remain aware of cues that one of your employees is not doing well, and could be predisposed to a violent outbreak. Take care to treat any concerns or potential threats as serious and follow-up appropriately.

Talking about workplace safety may not be a pleasant topic to discuss in your organization, as everyone wants to believe that no one in his or her vicinity would be capable of an episode of violence. However, being as prepared as you can be for the unexpected will keep as many people safe as possible. And this could mean accessing resources such as your in-house security, local authorities, and, your Employee Assistance Plan, to help develop and support your workplace violence prevention plan, training and protocols.

Has your organization implemented workplace violence prevention training or protocol? Would you know what to do in case of an emergency?

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/chuang-li-former-employee-charged-in-toronto-office-stabbings-1.260397

http://www.timesdispatch.com/workitrichmond/learning-center/labor-law-is-your-workplace-safe/article_92c3ac86-bdf6-11e3-8ab1-001a4bcf6878.html

http://www.workviolenceprevention.com/blog/employee-stabs-hr-managers