Going to work while being sick – not always the best policy (Part 2)

Presenteeism, an attendance behavior defined as going to work while our health is not optimal, is a phenomenon more and more recognized and known to impact workers and their organizations negatively. For example, we now know presenteeism generates significant productivity and financial losses and is associated with various health difficulties, such as burnout, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain (more details on the impacts of presenteeism are presented in Part 1 of this article).

The global pandemic has changed the professional reality: most workers are now forced to work from home, organizational restructuring and layoffs are more prevalent, and maintaining a work-life balance is even more challenging. In that context, it may be even more difficult for individuals to take the day off work when they need to – putting them and their organization at higher risk of experiencing the harmful consequences of presenteeism.

The good news is that we know organizations, managers, and workers alike can prevent and intervene to limit the impacts of presenteeism and promote well-being and productivity in the workplace. Here are a few points to consider to help you and others face this reality.

Recommendations for individuals

• One of the best tools we can use to prevent health difficulties associated with presenteeism is to be aware of our signals. Our body typically tells us when we need to slow down and take a break – we just need to respect it more. If you are experiencing difficulties with concentration, motivation, low energy, higher stress levels, and physical aches, it may be time to take some time off work to recharge your battery.

Checking in with yourself to see how you are doing psychologically and physically can help you decide if it could be a good idea to take time for yourself or slow down your work pace. Even taking a half-day for yourself or respecting your work-breaks can have a significant impact.

• Asserting your limits and expressing your needs to your colleagues and managers can also help manage your workload more effectively and help you manage your energy.

• Being present for work can be a positive source of self-accomplishment and social support. Continuing to connect with colleagues and friends, and practicing self-care activities, can help meeting those needs when you are off work.

• At times, we need to adjust our self-imposed ideals and expectations. Life is full of stressors and transitions, so, understandably, we cannot always be present at work or as productive as we want to. We are not robots, and sometimes we need to accept that we have limits and needs.

Recommendations for organizations and managers

• Too often, promoting wellness and productivity clashes instead of being an integrated message within the work culture. However, from a clinical point of view, well-being and productivity go hand in hand. If we proactively respect needs and limits and take concrete actions to maintain a healthy work-life balance, we will be more productive at work and in our personal lives.

Offering sick-days to employees does not seem to be enough. Changing implicit messages that reward being present at work at all costs, training managers on the risks of presenteeism, and recommending concrete behaviors that promote well-being are all avenues that can limit presenteeism and its negative impacts.

• Managers are often in a privileged position to see members of their team struggling with workload, feeling unwell, lacking motivation, etc. Having open discussions regarding a need for taking time off work, reducing or reassigning tasks, and implementing a more reasonable work routine, can help prevent the negative impacts of presenteeism.

• Supervision and management mean many different things, and it also includes modeling. Suppose directors and managers themselves respect their own boundaries, promote well-being and healthy work-life balance, and encourage taking advantage of sick and personal days. In that case, their team members will be even more likely to practice the same behaviors.

Taking time off work is not the only solution to prevent presenteeism. Taking care of ourselves and others and promoting healthy boundaries and a work culture that does not exclusively care about productivity can positively impact employees and organizations alike.

If you recognize a more pronounced difficulty to manage psychological or physical symptoms within yourself or colleagues, starting psychotherapy can also be an option. CFIR’s professionals are here to support individuals and organizations to promote wellness in the workplace.

Dr.Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).


How Does It Feel to Transition Out of Social Isolation? Your Guide to Emotions in the “Reopening” and “Return-to-Work” Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the possibility of business and recreation gradually reopening becomes more of an imminent reality, many of us will face the opportunity to step out into the outside world again, into closer contact with other live (not-virtual) human beings, for the first time in months. 

Despite many social media narratives that celebrate this possibility, the actual emotions we might face as such opportunities become realities might be a lot more complex than that.

When COVID-19 initially hit, we fell suddenly and unexpectedly into a full-blown crisis. As with any onset of crisis, it is common and even likely to feel emotions like anxiety, worry, panic, overwhelm, and fear.

And as long as we continue to live in this crisis, especially as food, work & income, and housing remain uncertain for so many, we can expect these emotions of anxiety, worry, panic, overwhelm and fear to stay present. 

Everything inside of us is mobilizing—body and mind—to meet these threats that we face, and to survive them. 

Now that we are a couple of months into the pandemic, I am seeing some clients in my psychotherapy practice who are beginning to enter into the next phase of emotions. Since we’ve now had some time to start absorbing a bit of the new reality, and certainly, as we anticipate returning to work, the main emotions we are feeling are expected to shift. Increasingly, I anticipate seeing more people with emotions like depression, chronic boredom & under-stimulation, frustration, hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.

As we continue to take in more of what we have been experiencing, we are going to feel more of the weight of it all, and at times that weight is likely to feel quite heavy. 

So, what can you do to support yourself through these current and upcoming emotional experiences? For me and the way that I practice psychotherapy, the answer comes back to ‘connection.’ 

Firstly, it is essential to maintain—or build—connection to yourself. Once or twice per day, for 15 or 30 or 60 seconds at a time, stop and check-in with yourself. Notice what is happening in your thoughts and feelings, and even in your body. Notice your breath, notice your bodily sensations, and check in on them at various moments and throughout the following days because they are likely to fluctuate. 

Self-monitoring, in this manner, can help you to feel grounded in yourself and your experiences. It can also help you to identify when you need help—and this leads to a second point: we also need to be maintaining connection to others. 

If you find yourself struggling or feeling unwell, try to reach out. Of course, you can always reach out to a psychotherapist, and you can also reach out to a close friend or family member who might intently listen to you, or else might help you problem solve, depending on what you need. 

You can also try going for a walk to give your thoughts some space, or write them out, or even audio record them for yourself. In any of these cases, reaching beyond yourself to outwardly express what you are thinking and feeling can help you release some emotional burden, and so can help you to feel a little better. 

Secondly, as you are reaching out to others, do not forget that you can probably assist others, too; there can be a mutual exchange of support. Sometimes all someone might want is to be heard, and even in times when we feel we have nothing left to give, just existing next to someone alongside their experiences can bring great relief. The relief is mutual, as we benefit from a dose of feel-good chemicals in the brain when we connect with and help others. 

One final thought on emotions in this next stage of the pandemic: sometimes we can forget that it is absolutely possible to feel many different things, including stress and hopelessness, and even gratitude, or any other mix of emotions, all at the same time. These feelings can co-exist together.

If we can hold on to this thought, maybe we can make even just a tiny bit more space for the feelings of connection and groundedness. 

Take good care.

Reesa Packard, M.A., Ph.D., R.P. is an Associate and registered psychotherapist at CFIR (Ottawa). She has a doctoral degree from the Saint Paul School of Psychotherapy & Spirituality and works in private practice as a registered psychotherapist. She works with clients hoping to develop a more integrated sense of self as a means to well-being and meaningful, lasting transformation. Reesa is also involved in the teaching and supervision of psychotherapists-in-training and advanced knowledge through research in her specialty fields.

Finding Work-Life Balance While Working At Home

More and more, organizations are adapting their work modalities and environments, and therefore changing their employees’ experiences. Telework is increasingly encouraged in the current workplace, mainly to facilitate a better work-life balance for workers and optimize their levels of productivity. However, the working-from-home scenario of the past is much different than our new pandemic reality, where full-time telework is imposed. 

Various factors can complicate working from home. These factors may include dealing with more distractions, having to care for kids (or other members of the family), technological issues, feeling disconnected from a team, or not having access to specific resources we usually have in the workplace. For many individuals, these factors add up to one significant challenge: finding and maintaining a sustainable balance between their work and personal life. Here are a few tips that can help set a healthy integration of your work and personal spheres:

  • Create a designated workspace: If you have the space in your home, organizing a work station that allows you to have all the tools you need to do your work, is ergonomically friendly, and is not too close to main distractions is worth it. It can be as simple as reorganizing furniture or adding a separating curtain around your desk.
  • Establish a flexible routine: Maintaining your typical routine might work best for you. If you are used to getting up, showering, eating breakfast, and walking to work, why not do the same steps before starting your workday at home? Keeping up with your usual routine will also ease the transition of returning to your workplace. However, if you find your regular routine does not match with your new reality at home, being flexible and creative with your schedule could help you find a work-life balance that fits better for you. For example, you may want to adjust your work hours to moments of the day when you feel most productive, or less likely to be distracted by familial obligations. 
  • Connect with colleagues: One of the positive benefits of being physically at work is connecting with colleagues in-person, celebrating successes together, and finding social support. Maintaining regular contact with your team is not only helpful for your work but can also be a great morale booster.
  • Keep house chores for after work hours: You don’t need to take care of your to-do list at all times because you are at home all day. If you get overwhelmed with everything that you need to do with work and home responsibilities, separating the two can be very helpful.
  • Take breaks: Personal and social breaks are essential, even when you are at home. Although many teleworkers usually would make time for a break while at the office, they won’t allow time to have one during work-at-home hours. Taking a walk, doing some stretches, calling a friend, eating lunch outside, or taking a coffee break will help to maintain focus and productivity, and a general sense of well-being.
  • Avoid working after work hours: You don’t need to work more because you’re working from home. Maintaining clear boundaries with your work will help you to find a better balance.
  • Communicate your needs to other members in your home: Signaling your needs and limits to other individuals living with you will help to maintain your work-life balance. It is ok to express your requirements – this will also allow others to respect your boundaries and express their own. 
  • Adjust expectations: It’s important to remember to adjust our self-imposed pressures and expectations. Given the current global climate, it may very well be impossible to be as productive as you wish you could be, and it is reasonable to experience lower motivation and higher levels of stress. Be kind to yourself, as your self-judgment is probably hurting more than it is helping. 

Full-time telework certainly has its perks, but maintaining a satisfying work-life balance can be demanding as well. If this new reality continues to be challenging and causing emotional distress, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Clinicians at CFIR are here to help you identify strategies that will improve your day-to-day work and life routine, and better manage the difficulties you are experiencing. 

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Endorsement. It’s Critical for Your Next Job Reference

by: Erin Leslie, Coach, EQ-i Certified

You’ve pretty much landed the job, but now you need to pass the reference check portion. Providing references to a future employer is critical to landing the job and on the right foot. 

An endorsement is a natural validation of past job(s) well done. 

How do you ensure you’re choosing the right references?

  1. Request to meet with your reference so you can go over the job opportunity that you applied to and discuss your expectations of their review of you.
  2. Be sure you are approaching the right people who can describe sufficient firsthand knowledge of your work patterns and achievements, to adequately speak on your behalf.
  3. Make sure to validate your level of comfort and confidence with their responses on your work ethic and value. Know that they are evaluating their role in your process, their level of confidence to support you, needs to be high.

Ahead of ever needing a reference – know that all references are formed on your ability to build and maintain effective relationships. 

If you find yourself having trouble thinking of an adequate reference, it might be time to have a closer inspection of your self-awareness and interpersonal skills. 

Performing an EQ-i assessment of your emotional intelligence can help shed some light on potential blinders. Ask a coach to provide this assessment.

For more essential tips on the steps to take to support your reference check phase of the hiring process, click here to review eight mistakes to avoid when engaging your references.

Erin Leslie is an Associate of the Career Coaching and Counselling Service as well as the Career & Vocational Assessment Service at CFIR (Toronto). Erin is certified in emotional intelligence assessment (EQ-i 2.0) and is President of President, EQFootprints. She is a professional who supports clients with professional preparations in leading their careers, breaking down problems in specific projects, teaching team dynamic tools, creating effective professional branding and networking essentials. Erin currently works under the direct supervision of Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych.

Attachment Styles in the Workplace

by: Edgar Prudcoi, B.A. 

Do you often struggle with specific difficulties at work and have a hard time understanding where they stem from? Whether it is a consistent difficulty saying ‘no’ to a superior when you feel overworked or having challenges sharing your ideas in a meeting, how we experience and relate to ourselves and others within the workplace affects our overall well-being and career satisfaction. Workplace stress and difficulties we face can be influenced by our unique levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance. 

From a young age and into adulthood, we develop an attachment style that serves as a subconscious mental program that influences the way we perceive and relate to ourselves and others. Our attachment styles shape our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours automatically and often without much conscious awareness. Our attachment style ultimately presents itself in the workplace in various ways; knowing our style can help us improve our work-related functioning and overcome the difficulties we have while at work.

Here are descriptions and tips on how to deal with attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance in the workplace:

1) Anxious Attachment:

Anxiously attached individuals fear upsetting or disappointing people and have doubts about their worth or capabilities. This fear-based attachment style can show up at work through actions such as compulsively checking your email to make sure nothing is wrong, worrying about being liked or valued by colleagues, and seeking frequent feedback or reassurance about your performance. When you worry, the fight or flight mode generated by your nervous system hijacks you in those moments and makes it difficult to focus on accomplishing your work or feel positive emotions at work. 

How to manage anxious attachment at work:

Begin to work on creating a more positive and nurturing relationship with yourself and remind yourself of your abilities, worth, and accomplishments. Explore the parts of yourself that you, your colleagues, and superiors value about you and the evidence that you are an asset at work. 

Take a step back and approach circumstances and interactions at work by developing a positive and realistic self-dialogue rather than taking a critical view of yourself. Doing so may sound like, “the constructive feedback I received isn’t because I am a bad employee, I am doing my best, and now I know what I can improve on to become even better.” 

2) Avoidant Attachment:

Dismissive avoidant individuals may have a positive self-evaluation and a negative view of others as less capable, less intelligent, or unreliable. A fearfully avoidant person will have a fear of an attachment relationship and also a negative view of others as being undependable or untrustworthy. This fear can be experienced in the workplace by avoiding forming relationships because of mistrust or perceptions that you cannot rely on or depend on others. This also may lead to tendencies of micromanaging and monitoring employees and more likely dismissing input from others. If you have a fearfully avoidant attachment style, you may feel “stuck” with your work when you do not trust yourself or others with it. This feeling may show up as not getting started on a project because you feel incapable of completing it and lacking trust in sharing your difficulties with others, which may lead to developing a ‘why bother trying’ mentality. 

How to manage avoidant attachment at work: 

Acknowledge that others may also have valuable ideas or contributions. Approach colleagues and yourself with curiosity rather than judgment or defensiveness. Notice the tendency to put achievements ahead of relationships at work and be mindful of tending to both. Make sure to encourage yourself to communicate with others and develop trust to delegate work and ask for help. Be cautious of thoughts that suggest, “It will be better if I do it.” 

For fearfully avoidant attachments, try some tips discussed to manage the anxious attachment style while also making small and manageable steps to work through what it is you’re avoiding.

Are you ready to better understand and master the mental and emotional parts of striving for a successful career and a balanced life? CFIR’s mental health professionals can help! 

Edgar Prudcoi, B.A. is a therapist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto and is working on completing his Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School. He supports individual adults and couples to deal with difficulties related to emotion (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger), the effects of trauma, loss and grief, conflict resolution, and relationship functioning.

Five Warning Signs of Burnout and How to Manage Them

We all experience stressful situations in our lives, whether they occur at work, school, or in our personal lives. While experiencing stress is completely normal, if this stress has started to seriously impact any aspect of your life it may be a sign of burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive or prolonged stress. 

Burnout can occur to anyone who is working or living in a consistently stressful environment. It can slowly creep up because the early warning signs may be innocuous. Some common warning signs of burnout include the following: 

  • Feeling more tired than usual, or having difficulty sleeping
  • Having difficulty concentrating 
  • Increased agitation or irritability 
  • Loss of enjoyment in things you used to enjoy 
  • Poor work performance 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of burnout, here are some tips to help you manage: 

  • Take care of your physical health: sometimes we can forget about eating properly, exercising, and sleeping when we are feeling burnt-out. Taking care of our physical health can also boost our mood. 
  • Self-Care: take some time out of your schedule to do activities that make you happy. It can be as simple as taking a bath, talking to a good friend, or making yourself a nice meal. 
  • Set Boundaries: whether at work or in your personal life, it is important to set boundaries with those around you to make sure you are not giving too much of yourself. 
  • Talk to someone: whether it’s a friend, co-worker, family member, or professional, talking to someone you trust about what you’re feeling can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness associated with burnout.

These strategies can help reduce the symptoms of burnout. However, if you feel the symptoms you’re experiencing have been going on for an extended period of time or feel uncontrollable, it might be time to seek professional help. At CFIR, we can help you understand where your burnout is coming from and support you in developing healthy coping and self-care strategies.

Natalie Alexov, B.Sc. is a counsellor at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) under the supervision of Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych., and a Masters of Education with a concentration in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa. She supports individual clients to overcome a broad range of difficulties including depression, anxiety and stress, the impact of traumatic experiences, and relationship problems.

Motivation vs. Intention: Do You Lack the Drive to Set Personal or Professional Goals?

by: Erin Leslie, EQ-i Certified | Coach

Are you confused about how to bring about motivation vs. intention? It’s not uncommon to be confused about these difficulties. In our modern society, messages intended to distract us are everywhere. Sometimes these messages try to persuade us to buy into a fad or product. Getting you onto that conveyor belt of attempting to acquire and invest time and money, only to be unfulfilled in the end but to repeat the same cycle. 

Many people today tell me they are unmotivated at work and feel they’ve lost their career direction. More employees than you may think are feeling tired by the daily churn, and they don’t know how to change it! When I meet with them, I typically ask some key questions to see where the lack of interest lies. 

  • Is it due to personal distractions with family or friends?
  • Is it relationship-related issues with team or management?
  • Is it due to pre-existing beliefs or concepts that may need to be renewed?
  • Could it be depression? Have you sought professional consultation?

After some analysis, I find that it is not that many people necessarily lack motivation, but rather have difficulties with intention.

Purpose provides the compass that fuels our minds and bodies to move in a specific direction. Now how do we go about finding purpose? 

It’s quite simple.

I share two important methods of finding intention.

First, volunteer. Don’t think about it; do it. Go out this weekend and find a school, religious organization, municipal supporting event, or service and give your time. 

Volunteering allows your mind to stop focusing on itself. It opens up your thinking towards others and helps you care about an external problem that you may not have considered before. 

Volunteerism exposes you to areas of risk and need in your community and gets you instantly thinking – how can I change some aspect of this outcome into a more positive one? How can I improve the lives of others?

It also gives you the purest sense of intention. Helping, caring, and enabling another human is our foremost purpose. But we forget that sometimes.

Volunteering enhances your beliefs about what is important. It doesn’t require a lot of time or thinking. It requires you to feel and act. That renewed sense of purpose fuels your intention towards your future. 

Secondly, mentorship. I suggest entering a mentorship relationship with a peer or colleague. Mentorship allows us to focus our attention on another person’s inquiry, leveraging our own experience and knowledge to solve a problem and focus away from our own pain points. People find it highly satisfactory to support others ahead of themselves. Still, it is through an interaction of mentoring and helping that often we find the answers to our issues. 

I often say that everyone should mentor as we all have something to offer and learn in this enriching professional relationship. 

Do you specialize in a specific skill set, industry insight, or business strategy or methodology? Someone within or outside your professional circle is looking for guidance, and it only takes a few meetings a month to connect and follow up on a specific area of interest or need. Those meetings could make a real difference in a professional’s work-life. 

Are you ready to better understand and master the mental and emotional parts of striving for a successful career and a balanced life? CFIR’s Career and Workplace Service can help! 

Three Key Tips All Women Need to Apply Now in Their Professional Lives

As the saying goes ‘Natural Born Leader’ women have been supporting organizations in leading roles across many diverse industries globally. 

Associate of CFIR’s Career & Workplace Service, Erin Leslie, share three essential tips all women need to apply now in their professional lives and when seeking that next level role: 

1. When looking for key roles make sure to take into account lifestyle preferences and balances that give time for you to look after yourself and your loved ones. Don’t just accept the next leadership role because it means you will have the title and responsibility. You need time to be mindful of your own needs and healthy approach to re-energizing.

2. Do you hear yourself saying “I can’t apply on that job” because you think you don’t fill 80% of the job posting criteria? Stop self-doubt now! Do you like the position description? Great! Now, look at how your past experience can contribute and build the narrative around how your experience makes you the ideal candidate for the job. 

3. Be mindful about negative energy and the impacts it has on your stress levels and body. There are times when we catch ourselves judging a project or adverse performance/outcomes without having all the facts. Remember that you never know what people are genuinely going through in their lives that would cause professional impacts on their work. Be supportive and an active listener. You may uncover some key insights to help move the situation back onto a successful pathway. 

Thank someone today for their professional services and happy International Women’s Day.

Are you ready to expand on your journey into professional leadership? Request to meet with Erin through CFIR’s Career and Workplace Service.

Therapy: Are You Covered?

Is your therapist covered by your workplace insurance? 

Can you afford the number of required sessions to help you by either using your insurance coverage or paying ‘out of pocket’?

Not all mental health care practitioners are covered by workplace insurance programs. Clients who don’t review their workplace insurance prior to receiving psychological services can find themselves feeling very disappointed, and out of a lot of money when they find out that they are not covered for their sessions. It’s important to find out how much coverage you have, and to figure out how much ‘out of pocket’ money you’ll need to be able to attend sessions consistently and until a significant change has been realized. It’s important to learn at the outset about how many sessions you’ll be able to afford with your insurance coverage and the ability to pay ‘out of pocket’.

Registered psychologists tend to be covered by most workplace insurance programs. However, if you are seeing a psychotherapist or social worker, you’ll want to verify whether their services are covered under your program. At Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR), psychotherapists and social workers are supervised by a registered clinical psychologist, and receipts are issued under the supervising psychologist. Some insurance companies will accept these circumstances, while others will not. It’s up to you to verify with your insurer whether your insurer will cover your sessions.

Since most individuals will require more sessions than their insurance covers, it’s important for you to evaluate whether you can afford to pay for sessions ‘out of pocket’ once your insurance has run out. It’s important to have these discussions with your therapist to ensure that your treatment is not disrupted by lack of financial resources. Based on your insurance, and ability to ‘pay out-of-pocket’, your therapist may determine given your presenting concerns, that other treatment options may be better for you (i.e., workshops or group therapy, or seeing a psychotherapist or joining our Reduced Cost Services program). In the event that you find yourself out of insurance dollars, and your ability to pay ‘out of pocket’ reduced, you may want to alter the number of sessions you attend per month or take a break from therapy until which point your workplace insurance kicks in again.

CFIR offers you different options to ensure accessibility and affordability of services. If you have run out of insurance and are having difficulties paying for services ‘out of pocket’, our counsellors, who are supervised by our psychologists, can be seen for a fraction of the cost of seeing a psychologist. Referral to counsellors at CFIR is seamless and ensures continuity of your treatment with minimal disruptions.