The societal environment is chronically vulnerable, and has been particularly affected by the epidemic. Organizations that support the most disadvantaged have struggled – and for some still struggle – to maintain a social safety net if needed, particularly in times of crisis.
“We are a family and a sense of belonging has played a huge role in our resilience at work. But we also had to accept our weaknesses, talk about them and take breaks to continue working,” says Jose Bennett Raymond.
The Itinerary Group provides support services and a living environment for nearly 200 people, mainly through the production of a fortnightly newspaper, half of which are produced by street vendors.
When the health crisis set in, we had to make unexpected purchases, like the Purell and Plexiglas panels, but most of all, hold on to the fort. An emergency fundraiser, ready lunches, daily calls for news, an online magazine emigration and, most recently, the newspaper’s obscenity: the health crisis has accelerated so much.
“Demands have exploded while organizations are chronically underfunded,” says Alexandra Giroud, a doctoral candidate in industrial and organizational psychology and research assistant at Laboratoire de recherche sur la santé au travail de l’UQÀM.
Under the auspices of Professor Sophie Monnier, I participated in two studies for the “Committed to My Health!” project. ‘, aims to determine the mental health of workers in the community, as well as the determining factors. The first study, before the pandemic, showed that working conditions in this highly feminine environment (84% of those surveyed) were indeed problematic.
The second study, of 579 community workers in Quebec, looked at the first wave of COVID-19 — and presented the first results last December during Web Talk. Professionals find that the workload has increased, as well as the emotional burden. The pressures multiplied.
This study revealed that nearly 30% of professionals live from occupational burnout, an increase of 9% compared to before the pandemic. One component will already show that occupational burnout will be more severe.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, the communal environment has necessarily become more demanding: the need for psychological support and nutritional support … “We usually respond to 150 requests for resources per year, there are 300 calls in three months, c” is very intense”, explains Aureli Brusolo, Director Racorand alternate network and NSCommunity of Mental Health Organizations on the Island of Montreal.
This group, which assists community organizations in Montreal, joined forces with UQÀM Research to obtain mental health diagnoses for professionals from 96 organizations in Montreal.
“Exhaustion is increasing and psychological well-being is deteriorating with the pandemic, especially for professionals who are overinvesting in their work and management which bears all the mental burden,” penalized Alexandra Gero. “My co-worker quit and I also had to take a short break to rest – lay off due to exhaustion. There is a lot of pressure and people are falling like flies.”
A lack of resources, a stress exacerbated by health measures that are not always easy to understand and communicate, weakens many already vulnerable communities. “It’s a poorly funded environment in Quebec and it’s impossible to meet the demand. Social housing or all the panic calls for families. You have to liquidate and that creates a lot of stress,” explains Aurélie Broussouloux.
Additionally, the environment has also shifted to remote work in the early months. But based on human relations, it is not always possible to achieve the environment of society through remote work. “It is much more difficult for stakeholders and those in contact with clients. Not only does a telephone intervention provide the same support, but it also drains a lot of energy from a professional who is poorly equipped and isolated at home,” continues Alexandra Gero.
Finally, with temporary closures, organizations have had to cut back on their resources. Recruitment, with resumption of activities, turns out to be complicated because candidates do not crowd each other. “The salary in general is low for a college degree in demand, and there is a huge gap between what needs to be paid and what the organization can pay,” Alexandra Gero recalls.
Few studies look at the reality of Quebec or Canadian community organizations. “Hence our desire to make their reality known and recognition of their work, which is very important as a social safety net for our community,” notes the researcher.
The second study, whose full results are expected at the end of the summer, also shows the relationship between workload, excessive investment and guilt at work — three factors that fuel burnout. It’s common to hear: ‘I feel bad but I don’t want my teammate to take a hit, so I don’t go away. “This coherence creates feelings of guilt and can drive a person to fatigue,” explains Ms. Gero.
If decoupling quietly leads to a certain normal state of work, there are still many uncertainties. “I see a lot of depression and stress around me. This will extend over a longer period of time and there will be ‘squeaks’ after the pandemic, Ms Brusolo believes.
Alexandra Gero remembers that the end of the pandemic should not make us forget the problem of chronic underfunding and the lack of strengthening the societal environment. “Before the crisis, one in five people was burned, and this is still significant and needs to be addressed,” the young researcher admits.
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