Is your mental health plan really working?

HR director explains how to measure the success of your wellbeing strategy

Is your mental health plan really working?

The COVID pandemic highlighted the importance of solid mental health strategies in Canadian organizations. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians experienced depression or anxiety during the pandemic – and yet just 23% of employees feel comfortable approaching their employers about mental health concerns. It’s no longer sufficient for employers to provide ‘one-size-fits-all’ wellbeing plans. Instead, leaders need to provide a safe space for employees to discuss their issues without the fear of judgment – something Dr. Raeleen Manjak, director, human resources at the City of Vernon, believes has been fast-tracked because of the pandemic.

“The pandemic signalled this shift in how society as a whole talks about mental health and mental wellness,” she told HRD. “Hopefully, this is what the future of mental health care will look like. With everyone now talking so openly about mental health, that stigma is diminishing dramatically. It’s becoming normalized.’’

Measuring the effectiveness of mental health strategies has always been a bone of contention for HR leaders and their C-suite executives. When you’re face-to-face with your board of directors, battling for your share of that precious budget, HR needs to speak numbers. But how do you convert health and happiness into stats and graphs? How do you convince the CAO that your mental health plan is sure to succeed? For Dr. Raeleen Manjak, mental health has always been quantifiable. 

“We started our mental wellness journey many years ago - during the launch of our annual Health and Wellness Fair,” she told HRD. “We asked our employees what areas of their own mental health they’d like to explore during a series of lunch and learn sessions. We covered topics such as anxiety, depression, stress, burnout, grief, and loss.”

Read more: Signs an employee is about to quit

Dr. Manjak suggests launching an employee-wide survey, as the City of Vernon did, to gather the thoughts and feelings of your people. Using data in this way can clearly indicate any underlying issues – ones which employees may not feel comfortable voicing to their managers – and this data will provide an opportunity to work toward tangible solutions.

“The data helped us see where we needed to celebrate and where we needed to focus; however, just as the survey results were reported out to the employee groups, COVID-19 hit,” continued Dr. Manjak. “Since COVID-19, we pivoted quickly, internally in our organization and developed a digitally curated series entitled Ten (10) Hours of Giving where we leveraged our relationships with subject matter experts (SME’s) on areas that would support our employees (and their families) during this particularly challenging time. Areas such as nutrition, fatigue management, mental health (anxiety, depression, stress), meditation, mindfulness, personal consciousness, conflict coaching, and a series of workouts (Zumba, Pilates, yoga, pound, Bollywood, meditation). The series also included an address from both our Mayor and our CAO to our employees. It’s all about letting employees know you’re there for them – you see them, you hear them.”

Even with specific data, intricately measuring the success of a mental wellbeing initiative can be tricky. Can you ever really be sure that what you’re doing is helping?

“It’s challenging,” admitted Dr. Manjak. “But we’re measuring our success through the attendance of our employees. We look at how many people are turning up to the sessions we offer, who’s participating in the open discussions. Doing this gives leaders an idea of how well the programs are being received. This type of awareness contributes to future learning and development that we can design and deliver to our employees, all to ensure that our unwavering commitment to a safe and healthy workplace is top of mind in all we do.”

Read more: Can HR legally demote an employee?

Essentially, employers can measure the effectiveness of their mental health strategies by looking at all areas of the employee experience. For example, how high are your turnover rates? How productive are your people? Are absences increasing or decreasing? Are you seeing morale staying high in remote workers? As we continue to navigate through the pandemic and the emerging aftereffects, having a resilient, agile, and focused team is a core indicator that you’re invested in your mental health strategy – and that it’s working.

This feature was released as part of UKG’s exclusive magazine. Discover what HR teams can expect from 2022 and beyond and learn strategies for the new era of work here.

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