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MindsMatter Action: CGI 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 CGI Canada is doing in this Q&A with Jenny Winter, Vice President, Human Resources.

A headshot photo of Jenny Winter from CGI Canada.

Jenny Winter, Vice President, Human Resources, CGI Canada

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

Since 2015, CGI has launched an annual Mental Health Month during May in line with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) National Mental Health Week. Each year, we have offered a variety of engaging activities to our 11,000 employees in Canada to promote mental health in the workplace and contribute to a positive and healthy work environment.

Our goals are to educate employees and managers about the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace, reduce stigmas associated with them and provide meaningful ways to support our employees and refer them to relevant resources.

We’ve placed a special emphasis on promoting peer-to-peer recognition, which is a protective factor in terms of mental health. Annually, we have promoted our internal recognition platform called ‘APPLAUD’, a web platform enabling our employees to send a certificate to a colleague and his/her manager in acknowledgement of their great work and efforts. To help entice employees to use this platform, CGI has pledged a monetary donation to the CMHA for each shared APPLAUD during the month of May each year. Since its inauguration, CGI has donated $40,000 to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

We also have placed a high priority on managerial training for stress management and encouraging mental health-focused conversations with their team members and promotion of available resources to support our employees. In the last two years, over 500 managers have received this training, which has contributed to improved workplace culture and increased utilization rates of our employee assistance program.

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

Our holistic and multi-level approach to our mental health and wellbeing interventions is contributing to an improved workplace culture from which all employees can benefit. CGI’s annual mental health month has contributed to improved culture and our employees’ attitudes towards mental health. Our efforts to promote internal recognition have resulted in a year over year increase in the number of ‘APPLAUD’ certificates sent, contributing to a sustained improvement in peer-to-peer recognition not just during Mental Health Month, but all year long.

We have improved our employees’ collective understanding of mental health and its importance in the workplace.

Are there plans for more actions to come? 

Absolutely. We recognize that mental health is not a one-off event or initiative and we are continuously evolving our strategy and interventions to benefit employee mental health and wellbeing year-over-year. Annually we have two points in the calendar where our wellness program focuses exclusively on mental health in the workplace, however we are also institutionalizing ongoing opportunities to contribute to positive mental health.

In our next fiscal year, we will be implementing a targeted intervention by our trained wellness professionals to benefit isolated teams and incidents where stress is high. These could include project teams with tight deadlines, high turnover rate and/or rising casual sick, short-term, and long-term disability associated with mental health causes. These targeted interventions include a full analysis of the situation to implement targeted solutions given the identified needs.

We would also like to develop a network of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) throughout the country. This program aims to improve mental health literacy, and provide the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend or a colleague.

What does good workplace mental health look like to you?

We continue to refresh the themes and goals of our activities to promote a variety of aspects of mental health including reducing stigmas, building communication bridges, peer-to-peer recognition, encouraging a supportive work environment and proactive manager conversations about work-life balance and mental health

Good workplace mental health is a supportive organization through all levels of the business. In our recent initiatives targeting mental health, we have placed a high priority on contributing a culture of wellness and support. We have done this through peer-to-peer recognition, managerial training and collaborating with a variety of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. The recent edition of mental health month was themed ‘Shaping a Supportive Community We Can Rely On’—we believe this is at the heart of a mentally healthy workplace. Employees should feel that they can be their whole self at work, respected, valued, included and supported. By fostering a culture of support we can reduce social isolations at work, contribute to an openness to share and understand each other with empathy, compassion, and free of judgement or bias.

Anything you’d like to add?

Even though we often think that our personal and professional lives are distinctly separate, they are both intimately linked. At CGI we believe that it is our shared responsibility to ensure that mental health is a top priority contributing to both individual and organizational health. Investing in health and wellbeing, especially in mental health, is important to optimize the work environment contributing positively to the employee experience so they can thrive both personally and professionally.

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