Sending a clear message of being committed to the psychological safety and well-being of employees has yielded a range of positive outcomes for Wajax, a leading Canadian industrial products and services provider since 1858, says Irene Stretton, the organization’s director of Human Resources.
“We believe that the strength of our company is in our people. We’re committed to providing a workplace that is safe from hazards, with a work environment that fosters good health and wellness,” says Stretton. “We do this because it is the right thing to do, and it enables the team to proactively address their health risks, increases retention and engagement, and reduces absenteeism and disability costs.”
Ultimately, this helps support employees so they’re better equipped to meet the physical and psychological workplace demands, and consequently creates a more resilient business, she adds.
Cristian Rodriguez, vice president, Environment, Health and Safety at Wajax, believes occupational safety, mental health and wellness are all intertwined. He says, “Our long-term focus is on supporting the well-being of our employees. We take an integrated approach that started with a thorough health data analysis, a risk assessment and lots of planning.”
The first goal was to create awareness of and increase participation in programs like the employee and family assistance program, health activities, benefit program offerings and health assessment surveys, says Rodriguez, and the results speak for themselves. “During our most recent mental health survey, a vast majority of employees said they felt that Wajax cares about their mental health, and 76 per cent said their supervisor or leader is available, listens and is easy to talk to,” he says.
Employee participation in the Not Myself Today initiative at the organization’s 104 worksites is over 85 per cent, says Stretton. “We incorporate the Not Myself Today mood stickers into all our mental health activities to encourage employees to recognize and show how they are feeling that day, which then sparks a simple conversation and the opportunity to ask why they feel that way,” she explains. “We often get phone calls from our various worksites, asking for more mood stickers as they have run out.”
The recently upgraded benefit program also offers expanded mental health resources, says Stretton. “By increasing confidential mental health support, we can help employees develop resilience skills and function more effectively in all areas of their life, including work. In addition, we can provide them with quicker access to care, optimal treatment plans and online accessible options,” she explains. “We know this is important because employees are using the services; we have seen the take-up rates double in the last year.”
An internal Health and Wellness page titled “Hey, are you okay?” has registered more than 12,500 site visits to date, says Rodriguez. “There are many resources available, including articles on mental health and depression, videos on how to reduce stigma and information on our wellness challenges,” he says. “Employees have shared 12 personal stories that range from personal struggles with depression and anxiety to coping with loss.”
For Rodriguez, these examples are powerful – not only do they help to create awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health, but they also show that people are comfortable sharing their own experiences.
“Knowing our employees can come to a workplace where they feel safe, and they know we’re working hard to prioritize their physiological and physical needs, that’s what drives us to continue committing resources around important health, wellness and safety options,” he says.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.