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MindsMatter Action: Bank of Canada

With October featuring Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day and Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month, better workplace mental health is top of mind for many organizations. CivicAction reached out to organizations to see how they’re taking action. Read what the Bank of Canada is doing in this Q&A with Sylvie Latulippe, Director, Wellness and Employee Relations, Human Resources. 

A portrait photo of Sylvie Latulippe from the Bank of Canada

Sylvie Latulippe, Director, Wellness and Employee Relations, Human Resources, Bank of Canada

Tell us about a change your organization is taking to improve workplace mental health.

In the last two years, the Bank has made significant progress on supporting employee wellness, with a focus on mental health. In 2018, the Bank rolled out a new wellness strategy – with mental wellbeing one of four key pillars – that identifies key metrics, guides decision-making, and shapes programming related to mental health at the Bank.

The strategy is connected to and reinforces the Bank’s broader Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Programming, education, and awareness activities around Diversity and Inclusion are designed with workplace mental health in mind—with the goal to equip leaders and employees to support an employee with a mental disorder, and to reduce the stigma and misconceptions related to invisible disabilities.

In that context, the Bank has launched and refreshed several programs that support mental health:

  • The new Employee and Family Assistance (EFAP) program can be accessed through multiple channels (including a mobile app, website and call centre) and offers everything from bite-sized self-assessment tools and short video tips, to in-person counselling services. These services are regularly promoted through outreach to leaders, information sessions, and Bank-wide communications.

  • The Total Health Index is a third-party survey tool that employees can use to assess their own wellness, including mental health.Employees get a score on this dimension, along with a personalized action plan and links to resources. Meanwhile, the aggregate reporting gives the Bank information to plan additional programming to address potential and emerging issues across the organization.

  • This tool was launched during a new, annual Wellness Month, used to raise awareness of wellness topics and tools, with one week focused on mental health. This program is part of the ongoing communications that help point employees to just-in-time resources. For example, this year the Bank leveraged its enterprise license to LinkedIn Learning to promote a curated collection on building individual resilience during Mental Health Week.

  • The Bank also revised key policies to include terminology and reporting mechanisms to support a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. These include the Bank’s policy on Violence and Harassment Prevention in the Workplace with new, clarified ways to report incidents of psychological harassment, bullying or violence, and the Safe and Healthy Workplace policy that promotes a workplace environment that supports psychological health and safety.

  • As well, a dashboard was developed to give Managing Directors visibility into work climate pressures in their departments, for possible discussion and action planning among leaders.

How is this change positively affecting your workplace culture or your employees’ attitudes to mental health?

We are already seeing the impacts of a more proactive approach to supporting employee mental health.

This has led to a five-fold increase in the use of the EFAP program, with satisfaction rates in the high 80s and low 90s.

More and more, employees are seeking support at earlier stages from their leaders, business partners, and HR team to get the guidance, accommodations, or referrals they need to address their mental health concerns to support stay-at-work rather than reach the point where they need to take a leave of absence.

From a culture perspective, we are seeing a positive shift. People are more openly talking about mental health at the Bank—from leaders who want to learn how to best support an employee with a mental health disorder, to employees wanting to learn how to increase their resilience or how to extend support to a colleague or family member going through a rough period.  We have had leaders share personal stories about when they needed help and where they got it.

We are also getting higher response rates to the self-identification campaigns and survey questions related to workplace mental health which contribute to further informing strategic planning and programming for the Bank related to workplace mental health.

Are there plans for more actions to come? 

One major initiative that we are implementing in 2020 is Bank-wide mandatory training for leaders and employees that aligns with the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and equips leaders with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to support employees and teams in all stages of work.

What does good workplace mental health look like to you?

A work environment that is adapted to support all employees whether or not they have a mental illness, including work arrangements that allow employees the flexibility to get their work done in a way that best supports their mental health and wellbeing. A culture where an employee feels free to disclose when they have a mental illness or are dealing with a mental health issue and know where to go to get the support they need, including leveraging resources the Bank provides its employees.

What was your “aha” moment on the importance of workplace mental health…. 

After launching a more complete EFAP, the utilization rate went from 5% to 25% with more than half of the consultations related to mental health. Providing easy-to-access resources to employees is key to ensure they are taking charge of their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families.

Anything you’d like to add?

The Bank set out a vision to be a leading central bank, with strategic goals to support that vision—including reinforcing the Bank’s culture of innovation. As a direct result, we increased our focus on and investment in making sure our workplace is engaging and supportive, and in enhancing the trust between leaders and their teams. At the same time, like other Canadian organizations, the Bank and its employees are dealing with rising mental illness rates, capacity issues, and increased work and life demands. We knew that one of the most impactful ways we could positively influence their health and wellbeing was to create a culture and work environment that promotes mental health.  We have taken a proactive approach to ensure that our work environment, policies, programs, services, learning and awareness reflect our commitment to improving workplace mental health at the Bank.

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