COVID-19 and the Defence Team Total Health and Wellness Strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic and the unforeseen challenges caused by it have shaken the globe and taken a significant toll on people across the world. The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a high-degree of uncertainty and disruption to our lives, and it is not unusual to feel a heightened degree of anxiety and worry about the potential impact on ourselves, our families and those we care about.

The risk posed by COVID-19 is universal and applicable to the entire Defence Team. We will all be challenged to change our habits and behaviours, to protect each other, and support the Whole-of-Government efforts to over- come this pandemic. The challenges will become more acute as society and the DND/CAF begin to assume a “new normal.” Each region—and each Base or Wing— will encounter different scenarios based on local health conditions and the operational responsibilities they hold.

COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of health and wellness for the Defence Team, and this is of the highest priority to all levels of leadership within the DND/CAF. Adherence to public health measures will require fundamental changes to the way we operate. More members of the Defence Team will work from home, through virtual platforms. Those who are required to present themselves to the workplace will have to observe new rules and processes regarding the use of building spaces, such as: cubicle areas, stairwells, corridors, and other shared spaces. Bases and Wings across the country have already implemented health and safety measures such as limiting the number of personnel required on-site, controlling access points, installing floor tracking plans, designating one-way traffic in stairwells, restricting the use of common areas, and increasing the availability of hand washing stations.

This pandemic will demand adjustments to how we do business. Health and wellness programs have already begun to adapt their service delivery models to mitigate any deterioration in the level of service to their clientele. For example, virtual platforms have been leveraged to provide information, outreach, engagement, training, motivation, and support. The DND research capability is already moving forward to study the impact of COVID-19 on health and wellness. As more research and information on the effects of the pandemic becomes available, health and wellness programs must adapt, adjust and respond to the changing needs of their clients.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA) conducted a survey to “better understand Defence Team members’ experiences and needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a view to identify organizational approaches for supporting personnel and their families today, and as the current crisis subsides and personnel return to the workplace” (Goldenberg & Lee, 2020). Overall, the information obtained from surveying over 27,000 members of the Defence Team provides a direct view of how Defence Team members are coping with their current situations. The published scientific letter identified 22 recommendations to enable the DND/CAF leaders to better support Defence Team members which include: maintaining good communications to Defence Team members about the changing situation and work expectations; encouraging a healthy lifestyle through fitness and social connections (online); promotion of programs and services to assist Defence Team members to cope with stress, and remaining flexible and patient during this novel situation considering everyone’s unique situation and challenges.

Though envisioned pre-COVID-19, the Defence Team Total Health and Wellness Strategy supports the ongoing efforts of the DND/CAF, considering the full spectrum of health and wellness from both the workplace and person- al life. Through this workplace strategy, the DND/CAF reinforces its commitment to creating a healthy work environment through the assessment of health and well- ness needs, promotion and education, as well as the provision of care and support, regardless of the threats to health and wellness. This strategy is evergreen and provides the framework and strategic objectives necessary to remain responsive to the current pandemic and the evolving threat landscape.

The DND/CAF are steadfast in empowering Defence Team members to remain strong, secure, and engaged both at work and in their personal lives. As we continue to navigate through this uncertain time, Defence Team members can access a variety of resources and information to help maintain and improve their health and well-ness. For the latest information and resources related to the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation and the steps being taken to minimize the risk to our Defence Team, please visit the Defence Team—COVID-19 website.

The resilience and adaptability of the DND/CAF in the face of the current health crisis is also demonstrated by the wide variety of adaptations to COVID-19 the institution has made to date. These include:


Impact Statement

Examples of Current Adaptations

Physical Health

No access to fitness
facilities and in-person
health promotion courses.

Daily, 12 x one-hour livestream fitness classes and 3 x one-hour Health Promotion videos.

Building technology platform to enable storage/ archiving of fitness sessions for future use.

Mental Health

Increased anxiety and
stress due to
pandemic-caused changes.

Customized Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) resilience training packages to include COVID-19.

Inform Defence Team members of resources available during pandemic to help reduce stress and anxiety. Includes reference to Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and CF Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) through HR Go and the CAF smart phone applications.

Spiritual Health

Chapels and
Sacred Spaces closed.

Virtual faith group services across the country and for CAF members posted OUTCAN. Drive-through religious services offered.

Online counselling sessions available through both telephone and videoconferencing capabilities. Links for online pastoral counselling communicated through local Base/Wing chaplain Facebook pages and unit/wing/formation mailouts.



Impact Statement

Examples of Current Adaptations

Psychosocial Work Environment

Novel work conditions,
as people work remotely
and communicate digitally.

Digital working solutions (Office 365 – MS Teams), virtual meetings and regular staff check-ins.

Connectivity issues are mitigated by flexible work hours and adjusted expectations. Use of Office 365 has been utilized where appropriate for handling information up to Protected A.

Physical Work Environment

COVID-19 is considered
a "Hazard" under the Canada
Labour Code.

Promulgation of DM/CDS directive on Public Health Measures and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as guidance on Occu-ational Health and Safety (OHS) conditions for business resumption.

Ability of Defence Team members to have access to their office and ergonomic equipment when and where possible to support working from home.


Care of children at home
with full-time work
responsibilities for
both partners.

Flexible work hours and leave code 699 provision (civilian). Virtual family counselling services and webinars (military).

Work from home ability and flexible work hours. Spousal employment virtual job fair offered.



Impact Statement

Examples of Current Adaptations

Social/ Cultural

Soldier On physical activity
programming has been
cancelled/ postponed.

Virtual execution of program including virtual outreach, engagement, instruction and inspiration.


Change of home income for
non-public servant and
non-military spouses and partners.

Virtual support/financial counselling services and digital outreach to members.

SISIP launching new communications campaign/effort on social media, CF One community and Base/Wing media to educate and create awareness of SISIP services.

Physical Environment (Home)

Delays in renovation projects
due to contractor's inability to
provide services in accordance
with Public Health Measures (PHM).

As the plans for resumption of activities in the provinces are being activated, home modifications are restarting on a case-by-case basis.

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