Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Terry Fox Run: Supporting Your Workplace When a Co-Worker Has Cancer or Has Been Touched by Cancer in the Family.

people-2569234_960_720The annual Terry Fox Run on September 17th was not only an important event, but also a good reminder to talk about a very important issue – supporting your workplace when an employee or family member has cancer. Although the Terry Fox Run and other excellent cancer organizations continue to tirelessly raise money to battle this disease, we can all play our part, especially in the workplace.

The Canadian Cancer Society has released some daunting statistics in a new report. Almost one in every two Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will die from the disease. In 2017, an estimated 206,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Our sad reality is that we will all be touched by cancer in some way. That’s why I thought it’s so important that we learn how to provide support in our workplaces, not only to an employee who has cancer or is touched by cancer in the family, but to the rest of the team as well.

Why is it so important to support the rest of your team if a co-worker has cancer or has been touched by cancer?

We’re often so focused on the employee who has been diagnosed with cancer that we may forget that it also has a huge impact on the employee’s family as well as having an effect on your entire organization; this can be particularly true for smaller businesses and within departments. Colleagues may experience fear, anxiety, guilt and disbelief. Watching a colleague and sometimes a friend struggle or be affected by a loved one who has a life-threatening disease can cause depression and feelings of helplessness. Very low morale can spread through an organization like wildfire.

How can we support our workplace when an employee or an employee’s loved one has cancer?

Coaching: Provide coaching to managers with a team who are affected by that colleague.

  • Provide information about cancer, prognosis, treatments, duration, side effects, etc. so they’ll know what to expect and how to prepare their teams (and answer questions)
  • Educate how to recognize signs of fear, anxiety, depression or feelings of helplessness

Support Groups: Establish support groups to provide peer support for those affected by a colleague with cancer. These support groups can meet in person and online to accommodate those working remotely or in other locations.

Encourage team members to show support: Doing positive things often inspires positive feelings.

  • Don’t avoid your colleague – it’s ok to ask them how they are
  • Treat your colleague normally, but don’t pretend they are not experiencing a life-altering event
  • Be available to listen
  • Stay in touch
  • Offer to do something practical like cook a meal
  • Try to be patient and understanding – your colleague may not always be in good humour

Discuss what resources are available:

  • EAP services
  • OnCallogic – a new service that provides organizations with mental health support for those affected by cancer through a series of specialized counselling sessions
  • Extended health care plans

The cancer diagnosis of one employee or that employee’s family member can have far-reaching effects on any organization, particularly on a small business or department. It’s important that, as an employer, you support your workplace when your employee or their loved one has cancer. Ask your EAP provider if they have a cancer support program. If you don’t already have an EAP in place, I strongly encourage you to reach out to an EAP provider for assistance.

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8 Ways to Celebrate Multiculturalism in Your Workplace

multiculturalism-worldAs the debate around racism catches traction in the news with celebrities speaking up about #OscarsSoWhite and spreading awareness of its harmful effects on a global scale, let us not forget that racism is prevalent all over our world, and has an impact closer to home and on workplace harmony.

As managers, we all know how difficult it can be to discuss racism in the workplace, but here are a few supportive ways you might consider embracing your diverse workforce by incorporating the following into your employee programs.

 Providing a workspace that openly recognizes and respects diversity creates a welcoming environment while discouraging racism and other forms of discrimination. You can engage your staff in some or all of the following ways to celebrate various cultures in your workplace:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge special culture days and events such as Black History Month in February.
  2. Have a “Win a Lunch” draw at a local restaurant for Chinese New Year.
  3. Have your EAP provide diversity training to learn about the cultural backgrounds, lives and interests of employees outside of the workplace. Building relationships through increased understanding and trust helps to promote inclusion.
  4. Hold a Lunch-and-Learn on different cultures with the ethnic cuisine of the featured culture.
  5. Include opportunities for staff to interact in settings outside of work so that employees feel more comfortable. Be creative, flexible and look for new ways of socializing and team-building.
  6. Ensure all employees have the opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities.
  7. Ensure your company’s marketing and communication collateral incorporates multi-racial images, through brochures and your website to posters around the office.
  8. Be aware of and provide time off for culturally significant events. Consider offering a float day for employees to use at their discretion to participate in such events.

Honouring others’ differences will build a better, stronger team of employees. In workplaces that take the time for celebrating various cultures, people form stronger bonds with one another, learn tolerance, and develop greater loyalty toward the company. When hiring practices focus on ensuring a diverse employee pool, you find increased levels of resourcefulness, determination, and persistence.

Taking steps to support multiculturalism in your workplace will help keep your employees feeling safe while building a positive work environment. Celebrating diversity helps in preventing the issue from becoming a major problem.