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MindsMatter Action: Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

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 Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) is doing in this Q&A with Laura Carter, Manager, HR Benefits & Wellness.

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

Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has recently enhanced our employee benefits to better support our employees’ mental health and wellbeing. In the past year and a half, HOOPP has increased the psychological benefit for employees and family members. We have also recently adopted a digital Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) program to improve access to mental health professionals, as we know that time, stigma and access to care continue to be barriers in the GTA.

We also aim to be proactive by providing employees with tools and resources to preserve their mental wellness. Meditation sessions are offered twice a week (in addition to yoga and fitness classes) and wellness lunch n’ learn sessions focus on topics like the relationship between nutrition and mental health. Regular employee sessions are also held with our benefits, EFAP, and CBT providers to improve employee awareness of the resources available to them.

Finally, a significant effort has been made to normalize the conversation around mental health so that employees are more likely to reach out for the support they need. For example, we roll out a Mental Health Week communication campaign every year which includes sharing colleagues’ personal stories about mental health, as well as employee lunch‘n’learn sessions that feature individuals with lived experience.

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

These efforts are starting to shift the culture in a few ways – participation in meditation sessions and the overall wellness program continues to grow, and people feel comfortable and supported in stepping away from their desk to invest time in their wellbeing. We also see people being more candid about their challenges and proactively seeking out benefits and supports available to them. Additionally, there is a lot of support for those who choose to share their personal story. Wellness Champions who have come forward have been commended for their bravery in sharing their journey.

Are there plans for more actions to come? 

Mental health will continue to be an ongoing focus of our wellness and benefits program, and communication throughout the year is a priority for us. We continue to increase awareness of all of the tools and resources available so people at both ends of the spectrum are supported – whether it’s someone trying to be proactive and avoid crisis or an individual who is transitioning back to work from a disability leave.

We hope to connect with other employers to learn from their experiences and apply best practices. We will also continue to use metrics on benefits utilization to drive our program development and ensure we are targeting employee needs.

What does good workplace mental health look like to you?

  • An open and honest corporate culture where people can be their authentic selves and ask for help when they need it.

  • Fostering resilience by providing tools and support that enable employees to manage difficult situations and adapt.

  • Getting to a place where someone on disability leave for mental health is treated no differently than someone dealing with a physical health issue; where open communication and support from their colleagues is provided throughout the disability leave process and the transition back to work.

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