Mental health isn’t just an HR initiative, says Best Buy Canada’s CHRO

How to protect worker psychological health during stressful periods

Mental health isn’t just an HR initiative, says Best Buy Canada’s CHRO

Mental wellbeing is a concern for all sectors, however, in some industries, it’s more common to see psychological health dwindle. Take the retail sector, for example.

According to data from the Retail Trust, 84% of retail employees say their mental health has deteriorated over the last year – especially post-pandemic.

Which is why Best Buy Canada takes the mental wellbeing of their people so seriously. Speaking to HRD, CHRO Chris Taylor says this commitment is embedded into everything they do.

“In our retail cycle, we have huge peaks followed by more stable times throughout the year,” he says.

“We don’t want to wait for those ‘drive times’, we want to make sure we have an ongoing effort to support employee wellness. From an overall health perspective, mental wellness is very important and can sometimes take the spotlight – however, we also believe in a total health approach. That’s important to us.”

‘Culture of support’ embedded quality with leaders

To enable this, Taylor starts with a culture of support at Best Buy Canada.

“And what I love about this is it isn’t just an HR initiative,” he tells HRD. “Over time, it's just become such an embedded quality of our leaders to make sure that the wellbeing of their staff is paramount – and that’s alongside having to deliver on things like financials and sales.”

This is where training comes in. It’s all well and good to talk the talk, but mental health leaders need to lead by example. According to data from Forbes, 70% of employees say their manager has more impact on their mental health than their doctor or therapist, with 62% adding that they wished their leadership teams would speak more openly about mental wellbeing.

"We enable all of our initiatives thorough education and a lot of training,” says Taylor. “Making sure that if for some reason a leader can’t be involved, then there’s the proper resources that employees can reach out to – particularly in times of crisis. And we take an ongoing approach to this – a yearlong approach — so that when we do enter those stressful times, the holiday seasons, we ramp up our efforts to increase employee resilience and self-care.”

This, according to Taylor, heavily involves the leadership team – taking time out to check on people more frequently.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “allowing people to bring their best selves to work during those busy times is where we start.”

Leveraging resources for mental health in hybrid models

Resources are a key component of building out a successful mental health strategy – especially in remote and hybrid work. For retail staff, having easy access to this support can make the world of difference – and be the breaker between staying with a company and leaving. In fact, according to the Retail Trust report, one in five retail workers are currently considering quitting the sector entirely.

“In terms of resources, we do a lot and curating to find the right mix,” says Nikhil Rattan, senior manager, health, safety and wellness at Best Buy Canada. “We have quick tools and tips for our leaders on how to have those important conversations in the workplace. We also have a Microsoft Teams group for the entire workforce where we can share a lot of those best practices.”

Running alongside this mental health package is Best Buy’s health coverage and commitment to local communities – which has been helping employee mental health inadvertently.

“During the holiday season, we really ramp up our give back and community giving,” says Rattan. “Which we have found to be a huge psychological booster for our people. At our corporate office we do the holiday hamper program with BGC Canada.”

What’s more, a lot of Best Buy Canada stores participate in the Toy Mountain campaign during the holiday season collecting toys at Montreal stores, as well as having people  volunteer at Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“That element of giving back really helps drive that sense of wellbeing,” adds Rattan. “And it makes the holiday season great fun for our people.”

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