Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: Mental health check-in

May 24, 2022
By Colleen Cross

How is your mental health these days?

Here is a common scenario we witnessed in the early days of the pandemic. Operators were stressed out by the day-to-day uncertainty of pandemic restrictions and government announcements. They worried about their staff, they worried about paying their rent, they worried about keeping the lights on, they worried about having to close for good. 

In the end, many made wise decisions based on instinctive concern for their teams and the best information available. Nobody wanted to be at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak.

There were a lot of sleepless nights and daily knots in the stomach.


Operators checked in with their staff to learn how they were feeling and what they needed. When difficult decisions about reducing staff happened, many went out of their way to look out for those employees affected by providing free meals and other forms of support.

Once settled into new routines, often with fewer staff, these entrepreneurs faced another kind of stress – the strain of working long hours alone or with skeleton staff to keep filling the take-out and delivery orders that – thank goodness – were coming in steadily.

Does this roller-coaster sound familiar?

Mental health has got more attention during the pandemic, and rightly so. There was a lot going on, most of it bad. And for some, there was too much time alone to stew about it.

Now that it looks like the worst is behind us, it’s time to do a mental health check: How are you doing? How are your longtime employees feeling and coping with the heavy workload? How are your new hires doing in the new environment working with a new team?

What does it mean to have good mental health? “Good mental health allows you to feel, think and act in ways that help you enjoy life and cope with its challenges.” That’s Health Canada’s definition. Your mental health can be positively or negatively influenced by life experiences, relationships with others, physical health, the type of community you live in and whether it’s supportive or isolating.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness affects 7.5 million Canadians – about 20 per cent of the population. You can bet mental issues are affecting someone you work with.

Do you check in with your employees regularly? Have you checked in on them lately? 

It’s important for employers to make sure your workplace is a positive place to be and meeting your obligations. Physical health and safety are top of mind for many operators, but is mental health and safety?

If you’ve been wondering if you’re doing enough to promote a positive workplace, here are a few tools and resources to get you on the right track. The association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada collaborated to create the Takeaways Toolkit, which is based on how 40 workplaces have put in place the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The Toolkit, including a state-of-mind checklist, is a good place to start if you want your business to address and promote the psychological health and safety of your employees. 

Not 9 to 5 is a non-profit organization started in 2020 by people in the restaurant industry to empower hospitality, food and beverage service workers by providing education and support for mental health and substance use. The website ( has resources, including a mental health course, designed for restaurants, retail bakeries and food service.

A new report, released May 24, provides lots of insights and resources for owner-operators: read How the Pandemic is Affecting the Workforce: Retail and Hospitality Roundtable.

As recruiting expert Karen Horton observed during a Bakery Showcase panel, smart business leaders who nurture the well-being of their employees will become employers of choice. 

As we head into a busy summer, we wish you all health, strong sales and some blessed down time! / BJ

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