Building your Employee Wellness and Mental Health Offerings

Over the past decade, mental health has become an increasingly integral part of workplace discourse, merely owing to personal wellness cutting to the very core of what any person wants: to be happy. Despite the constant stressors of COVID-19 weighing upon them, employers continued to strive to create positive work environments, offering benefits to improve mental health and advance employee wellness. 

The consulting firm Buck found that 68% of employers have expanded their wellness offerings. However, it seems that employees are looking for more; only 51% reported feeling that their employer is more focused on wellness, while 28% felt that their mental health benefits were useful. With such a surprisingly large disparity between what employers have done to improve employee wellness and how employees have felt their wellness has improved, we can look at some of the more popular benefits to determine how to close the gap.

The City of Toronto’s 2022 Wellness Plan

With Toronto aiming at bringing its employees back to the office this year, the City is looking to make sure that said return unfolds as smoothly as possible. One way it is doing that is by continuing the mental health benefits it added during the onset of the Pandemic. The City of Toronto offers mental health benefits of up to $1000 per year, a drop-in wellness series, as well as increased lieu time and a list of mental-health resources. These specific wellness benefits are also merged with efforts to change the very nature of their workday to benefit the mental health of employees, with the City looking to implement a type of “cooling-off period”. When such extensive working time is spent on communication, Toronto is looking to limit how many emails are sent to employees all day. This is reminiscent of the recent Right to Disconnect law that was passed in Ontario.

The City of Toronto’s Wellness plan is something that employers should consider a great example of what can be done for their employees’ mental health. Therapy can be expensive, and can clock in at around $150 per hour. Mental health benefits, such as the $1000 Toronto offers, can go a long way in booking Therapy sessions. Of course, by taking a holistic look at wellness and limiting unnecessary communication, the City goes a step further. Their employees can now focus on the most meaningful part of their work, allowing everyone to benefit.

Other Successful Employer Mental Health Strategies

When looking at other successful mental health strategies employers utilize, it is clear there are common components: communication expanded health accounts and feedback. During the beginning of the pandemic, Air Canada and LifeLabs made sure to communicate as much information as there was regarding COVID to quell employee fears. In terms of expanded health accounts, Coca-Cola increased mental health coverage to $5000 annually, and 3M Canada allowed its wellness accounts to be used for home office equipment (owing to most work operations having been moved virtually). For companies like Air Canada and CIBC Mellon, getting employee feedback through surveys was already the norm. However, during a period of uncertainty like COVID-19, employee feedback was even more important in reiterating their wellness offerings.

Listen to Your Workforce

While successful wellness strategies practiced by the City of Toronto, 3M, Coca-Cola, and the other aforementioned bodies have several common components, what works for them may not work for your workplace. To determine if your wellness program is effective, or, alternatively what employees may want added to your program to make it better, you’ll need to a) communicate and b) monitor. Companies like Air Canada and CIBC Mellon have showcased the benefits of listening to your employee by getting and being receptive to employee feedback. 

A company that has a structured feedback system can collect excellent data on what works, what doesn’t, and what people want. Surveys or focus groups at regular intervals (quarterly, annually, at the beginning, and at the end of a wellness program) can help gauge how far the needle moved. Having a method to get anonymous, unprompted employee feedback (a type of “suggestion box”) may also be a way to get authentic employee opinions. Overall, there are many companies that provide a blueprint for you to start your employee wellness program, allowing you to show your employees that you care.

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