To use a football analogy, the pandemic is like starting a drive from deep in your own end, into the wind. At times, it even feels like the field is slanted uphill.
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Foundation and business operations team at the Ottawa RedBlacks have started hosting a free three-part virtual wellness series, RedBlacks Business Redefined, for business owners, employees and working families struggling to navigate the new normal during the COVID-19 crisis.
The seminars are focusing on such timely topics as mental health, financial health and – for the benefit of families – understanding and supporting young people during these unpredictable times.
The idea grew from the weekly Wellness Wednesday sessions OSEG had already been organizing for its own staff during the pandemic to provide them with financial education, lunchtime yoga and everything in between.
“We realized that, while so many local businesses are just trying to stay afloat right now, they may not have access to the same kind of resources for their staff,” said Lauren Epp, manager of corporate partnerships and premium properties at OSEG.
“Recognizing the challenges that our local business community are facing, the OSEG Foundation and the RedBlacks business operations team wanted to give back. They saw this wellness series as a way to do that.”
Businesses have really been forced to examine the way they operate as a result of the pandemic, Epp pointed out.
“‘Pivot’ and ‘unprecedented’ are a couple of words that we’ve heard over and over again this year,” she said.
(No kidding. There should be a ban on all future use of such buzzwords when this is all over)
In coming up with their topics, OSEG reached out to the Ottawa Board of Trade.
“We asked them to give us the pulse on what the business community is asking for right now,” said Epp. They collaborated with the business organization’s manager of membership experience, Lynn Ladd. “She did admit people are ‘Zoomed out’ but said there is an outcry for, in particular, mental health resources.”
OSEG has also partnered with the Youth Services Bureau (YSB), The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and TD Wealth. The series kicked off last Thursday with Life, Interrupted, featuring YSB mental health services coordinator Michelle Earle, parent Ann Leslie and interviewer Susan Blain. According to feedback, the session was helpful and informative, said Epp.
The OBoT SME Council, which has been supportive of small and medium enterprises during the COVID-19 crisis, identified mental health issues in the business community as very pressing, Ladd told OBJ.social.
“We understand that they’re overwhelmed and suffering from mental health issues, as is our workforce. We recognize the importance of connecting them with mental health resources in order to support them and help aid the economic recovery,” she said.
The series returns next week, on Wednesday, April 21, from 1 pm to 2 pm, with Dr. Susan Farrell and Dr. Rébecca Robillard from The Royal Ottawa offering tips on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as addressing the importance of sleep. Because mental health is such a broad term, with so many layers, the idea is to keep the session somewhat general to appeal to as many people as possible, said Epp.
“People may be feeling low or out of sorts and not even be able to properly identify why. It’s about giving them the tools and resources to recognize and put a name to those feelings,” she said.
The series wraps up Thursday, April 28 from 1 pm to 2 pm with Shereen Debanné, vice-president and investment advisor at TD Wealth, and her husband, Paul Debanné, associate portfolio manager. They’ll be sharing strategies for creating financial wellness.
“There’s been really good interest for all three of the events,” said Epp, who said they’re open to running similar sessions in the future if there’s demand for it.
The seminars are hosted by Mark Goudie, chief executive of OSEG, the group that owns and operates the Ottawa RedBlacks and Ottawa 67's Hockey Club, in addition to managing events at TD Place.
Epp said they’re “excited and optimistic” there will be a 2021 season for the RedBlacks. The CFL didn't play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re ready to welcome people back as soon as it’s safe,” she said.
She also revealed the team has been going through a rebranding.
“There will be a bit of a new look and feel,” she said of plans to take the team’s look to the next level.
The pubic can register for the next two RedBlacks Business Redefined sessions through the Ottawa Board of Trade’s Events Calendar. There's no cost to join and it's open to anyone.