Creating a robust wellness strategy for your organization takes more than one solution. Here’s a guide to offering a cohesive, multi-faceted plan to help your employees get—and stay—healthy.
Seventy percent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, and 14% don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all, according to a report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
And anxiety around both pandemic lockdowns and back-to-the-office initiatives has only made matters worse. Despite some progress, a SunLife survey found that one in 10 working Canadians have left or have considered leaving their job due to a lack of employer mental health support.
In addition, when their conditions are left untreated, mental health and addiction are costing your company money in absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, and disability leave. In Canada, $51 billion is lost due to untreated employee mental health and addiction every year (according to CAMH). And in 2021, nearly half of all long-term disability claims of young employees are a result of mental health, according to a report from RBC.
All these figures suggest that mental health and addiction need to be addressed by employers. There are solutions that can help support employees and demonstrate that their wellness is important to you. From in-person education sessions to online apps, here are four ways you can get started.
1. MENTAL WELLNESS EDUCATION SESSIONS
Your organization may already host educational sessions, such as lunch-and-learns, to keep your employees up to date with industry trends or even offer wellness guidance like yoga and healthy eating tips. You can use the same tactics to help them navigate mental health and addiction as well.
Where do you begin? Start by reaching out to mental health and addiction facilities in your community. They may be able to provide materials or even have guest speakers who can host an informative session on seeking help.
How you decide to host them is up to you and your organization. Choose the duration and frequency of your events (one hour each month for example). You can also host in-person events (ensuring you adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols in your organization) or use an online video platform.
You can cater the topics to your unique industry or workforce. Try creating an anonymous survey asking employees what challenges they face and topics that would be most helpful to them. Topics could include:
- Ways to minimize stress and anxiety in the workplace
- Understanding signs and symptoms of various mental health disorders or addiction
- How to approach a colleague or employee who may need help
- And how to reduce the risk of relapse during the holidays
2. WELLNESS PORTALS
What is a wellness portal exactly? It’s a simple, confidential way for employees to access their benefit plans, treatment options and other materials that can help them navigate mental health and addiction.
Why is it important to have a wellness portal?
Your employees may not feel comfortable asking those in management or HR for help. This gives them a confidential way to access the information they need. It also demonstrates that the organization takes mental health and addiction seriously.
How you build yours can depend on your organization’s unique needs. Your wellness portal can include:
- an easy-to-navigate guide to their mental health benefits (what’s covered and how much coverage employees have)
- a calendar of upcoming wellness events
- educational materials, including relaxation, nutrition and fitness advice
- contact information for mental health crisis organizations and suicide prevention hotlines
- other ways to access help, including private counselling and online or in-person treatment programs
Creating a wellness portal and then wiping your hands isn’t enough though. Ensure your employees know it exists (a consistent communication strategy is important!) and keep it up-to-date and refreshed with new content often.
3. DIGITAL WELLNESS APPS
There’s an app for that, as the new adage goes. And now a host of new apps offer mental health and addiction recovery services. On the plus side, they offer a customized, convenient, and gamified way to monitor and treat patients.
While leaving mental health solely to an app isn’t advisable, they can be beneficial for those who only need minor digital support for their symptoms. Apps can also be a helpful way to supplement more intensive treatment, keep progress on track, and provide connectivity in a crisis. Be cautious: providing access to an app and hoping it will provide recovery for all of your employees would be a mistake.
Some important features of a mental health app include:
- Daily reminders
- Customized mental health and addiction recovery tips
- Personalized goals and progress tracking
- Access to additional professional help when needed
4. INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING AND/OR COACHING
For employees with perhaps more severe symptoms of mental health disorders or addiction, they may need more one-on-one assistance. Others may simply thrive with this sort of personal care, versus an app and other online services. In these instances, individual counselling and coaching may help. More and more employers are providing free access to counselling as part of supportive benefits coverage.
What is the difference between offering counselling and coaching? Here’s how it breaks down.
- are action-orientated
- help employees recognize what they think
- help set and achieve goals
- challenge employees frequently
- are coping-orientated
- help employees realize what they feel
- help recognize and solve problems in their lives
- are professionally qualified (e.g., psychotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
5. INTENSIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS
While some employees with mild symptoms may benefit from individual coaching or counselling, there are many others with worsening conditions that are impacting their performance at work and at home. They may need more support to see progress.
That’s where Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) can help. IOPs can provide an escalated level of therapy for those who need more structure to their treatment, combining individual and group sessions. EHN Canada’s IOPs incorporate almost daily therapy for 8 intensive weeks, led by highly qualified mental health professionals, and can be used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, substance addictions, and workplace trauma. There is even a mental health program for teens aged 14-18 years. Clients can participate virtually or in-person, and the flexible outpatient schedule means employees can continue to work and care for their families while getting the essential help they need.
And in severe cases, an employee may need 24/7 care, or others may not have a conducive environment at home in which to recover. In these instances, inpatient treatment is recommended to provide a safe and supportive setting for recovery and enable a comprehensive plan for a successful return-to-work.
CONSTANT SUPPORT FOR LONG-TERM RECOVERY
The goal of anyone enrolling in a mental health or addiction treatment program is to bring lasting results. Offering constant support can help them stay on track. While your organization may not be able to offer all of the solutions suggested here, offering as many as you can go a long way in helping your employees maintain or a develop better mental health. And that, in turn, will lead to a healthier business.
To find out EHN Canada’s range of treatment options, from online Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) to inpatient care, and how these fit into a comprehensive workplace mental health strategy, visit ehnonline.ca and ehncanada.com.