Our “People You Should Know” blog series interviews key people and offices at the University of Waterloo so you can make the most of their services.
Linda Brogden is a University of Waterloo Occupational Health Nurse. Among other things, Occupational Health helps employees manage the impact of illness on their work. We interviewed Linda to make sure faculty know about the important support available at Occupational Health.
Linda has retired since we published this post, but the description of how Occupational Health works is still accurate!
What services does Occupational Health provide to faculty?
Occupational Health (OH) helps faculty—and all employees—with sick leave and medical accommodations.
Any absence of five or more continuous days requires medical documentation. OH can receive that documentation so that a faculty member’s department doesn’t need to see it directly. We also help faculty set up accommodations, which are adjustments to job duties because of a medical condition (e.g., tenure extensions, reduced loads). And sometimes sick leave cases are referred to an external provider, such as absences longer than four weeks without a definite return to work date, or when the University requires external expertise to assess a case. Occupational Health can help navigate all of these processes, and act as a confidential liaison between an employee and their department if needed. (See page 6 of the Disability Management Guide (PDF) for more information.)
We also promote both physical and psychological health and safety in the workplace and can provide information about and referrals to our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) at 1-800-663-1142.
What is the most important thing you want faculty to know about visiting Occupational Health?
The importance of seeking help early on in any illness. Having a chat with an OH nurse about your particular situation may help provide solutions for early intervention. We provide support to all employees with any health-related needs that may be affecting their ability to safely and successfully perform their jobs. All information provided to us, whether in writing or verbally, is maintained in strict confidence.
It’s also important to understand that we focus on the functional limitations in each situation so that we can find solutions that work for both the faculty member and the department–it’s about looking for the win/win solution.
What have you learned from this work that you wish everyone understood about accommodations and sick leave?
Having a medical concern, whether it requires time away from work or a temporary accommodation to keep you in the workplace, is not easy. Engaging in getting well takes time and energy. If workplace issues are affecting your health, discussing with OH and finding a solution is imperative to wellness.
What is it about this work that you’re passionate about?
One in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem or mental illness in any given year and many of the most at-risk individuals are in the workplace. Canadians spend more time in the workplace than anywhere else—an estimated 60% of our time. I believe everyone is entitled to a psychologically safe and healthy workplace, which includes both the way work is carried out (deadlines workload, work methods) and the context in which work occurs (including relationships and interactions with supervisors, colleagues, and clients or customers).
How is this process different for faculty than for staff?
The process is the same for all employees except that, mainly due to the nature of work duties, when returning to work, faculty generally have a full term to return to full ability whereas a staff member has 6-8 weeks.
Beyond helping individual faculty members, what other services does Occupational Health offer for faculty?
When requested, we will facilitate health promotion training in departments on a variety of topics, including psychological health and safety, resiliency, stress reduction, and mindfulness. We can also do lunch and learns!
This kind of work can be quite draining. How do you manage that and stay healthy?
We practice self-care and support each other We practice the healthy habits one expects—exercise, healthy nutrition, mindfulness, de-stressing activities—and then, of course, there is FRY DAY, when we enjoy french fries to help us get through those last few hours of the work week. It works!