In May 2021 we celebrated the two-year anniversary of Headway, a workplace mental health movement Sklar Wilton & Associates launched in memory of our founder, Luke Sklar. In this blog series, we’ll showcase success stories from our Headway members and highlight the specific actions they’ve taken to elevate the importance of employee mental health. We hope their stories will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
Mental health became even more evident and important in 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit and companies across Canada were faced with the biggest workplace mental health crisis they had ever experienced. And business leaders stepped up! We’ve seen some incredible actions from our Headway members in their commitment to prioritize the wellbeing of their employees.
In 2019, after the original Headway launch event, many companies left inspired with a desire to do more. Hotspex, a market research firm, actually let inspiration lead to action and built their mental health strategy to truly commit to employee well–being. We were able to connect with multiple Hotspex leaders as they shared the impactful programs and strategies put in place within their organization and how it impacted themselves & the full team.
Margaret Baker, Director of Talent & Culture, shared with us about developing partnerships and bringing in experts to help build their mental health strategy and de-stigmatize mental health in the workplace.
Here is her story:
“We started our own journey to address mental health within our organization shortly after learning about Headway in May 2019, to put it simply Headway inspired us to do better. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, and we didn’t know where to start. Our conversations with Headway really got us on the right path. They shared their resources with us. They introduced us to the approaches they took within their own organization. And they motivated us to have these tough conversations with our staff. We have built a strategy to get us moving in the right direction. It includes a mix of external supports, internal programs, and most importantly open and honest conversations as leaders.
Back in the summer of 2019, we decided we needed the support of a professional partner, a consultancy firm, to help us build out this mental health strategy. We interviewed several different organizations and landed on a partner that specializes in mental health, diversity, and inclusion within the workplace. We hosted company-wide mental health workshops with this organization and focused training for leaders and management. Once we became more confident in our own ability to host these conversations, we started to participate more actively in social campaigns, address the team in weekly all-hands meetings, and have more candid conversations throughout the organization on a day-to-day basis. The transformation wasn’t overnight, but it was organic, and it felt right. We built our muscle slowly. And with the help of our trusted advisors, we now speak as ambassadors on behalf of mental health.
To this day we continue to lean on this team of trusted advisors to help us navigate some of the trickier conversations. For instance, we recently held a mental health workshop refresher and we focused on the topic of suicide. We were very grateful for the external team, for their guidance, and for helping us get through this difficult, but important, conversation.
The advice we would give to anyone looking to build a mental health strategy is to ask for support. We may be researchers, but we don’t know everything, and this is definitely a topic that requires a lot of experienced knowledge. Ask for help. There’s no shame in ever asking for help and there’s no shame in admitting you just don’t know. We couldn’t have done it without our trusted advisors and we certainly couldn’t have done it without Headway.”
Nicole LeBarr, Director of Behavioural Science, shared with us about the benefits of extending counselling services within Hotspex’s own employee benefits package. Here is her story:
“Thank you to our friends at Sklar Wilton & Associates for introducing Headway and really fueling a mental health movement that encourages action among leaders in our industry. You’ve been a real inspiration to us at Hotspex, challenging us to do better and I feel so proud of how our leaders here have listened and followed through with our own corporate mental health pledge. For instance, about two years ago, we, as an organization, identified a core need for better counselling services for our staff. At the time, we had the standard yearly allocation that many organizations have. But when it really came down to it, we recognized that it just wasn’t enough investment to allow our staff to get that regular and continuous expert’s counselling support that they needed or wanted. So, we did some research, and our organization enlisted the help of an online subscription-based counselling service that empowers our staff to have access to flexible, unlimited, and anonymous counselling right at their fingertips. As a social cognitive psychologist, and someone who has personally benefited from counselling over the years, it was so exciting to me that Hotspex provided us with this opportunity for regular check-ins and self care. What really helped to go the extra mile in this endeavour was that in addition to the counselling service being offered to all our staff, Hotspex also encouraged us to regularly check-in with our family and friends, and to extend subscriptions to the service to those who wished to speak to a professional. This was such a game changer for me, and I know it was for several of my colleagues as well, because it gave us all that additional peace-of-mind that those in our support system would also get the support that they needed. I want to thank the Headway team for all that they’re doing to inspire leaders across our industry to champion mental health best practices in the workplace.”
Aimee Stephens, Senior Project Manager, shared with the Headway team more about Hotspex’s wellness expense accounts benefits package. Here is her story:
“Another great initiative that we have at Hotspex as part of our mental health strategy is our wellness expense account. We understand that for every individual things may look a bit different. That’s why we’re proud to say that our wellness account is flexible, and people can use it in any way that they choose. You can use it for a variety of different things such as: health and fitness classes, cleaners, therapy that goes above our health benefits, or you can even use it for those odd jobs around the house where you’re just stressed about things that you can’t get done, such as cleaning your gutters. We recognize that everyone looks for different outlets and support to help them through and we’re excited to say that this wellness account is available to any Hotspex employee on their very first day.”
Jonathan La Greca, SVP of Growth, shared with us about the implementation of meditation and gratitude practice as part of their general ways of doing business. Here is his story:
“On the topic of gratitude, thank you to our friends at Sklar Wilton & Associates for your Headway movement, you have inspired us at Hotspex. Every Monday at our all-hands meetings, we spend the first part of the meeting thanking our teammates for helping one another and we end the meeting by closing our eyes for a few seconds and bringing to mind something that we’re grateful for and we share it back to cultivate this idea and practice of gratitude, which of course, helps strengthen our ability to be mentally healthy.”
Shane Skillen, CEO of Hotspex, shared around the importance of vulnerability as a leader. We are happy to share his story:
“When I started Hotspex, Luke was one of the first people I ever met. He inspired me to want to work in this industry and solve the type of problems that he was working on, because there were people like him in the industry and I considered him a dear friend. It’s great to be here today talking to you about mental health, specifically around transparency and vulnerability. I’m a leader and I’m not immune to mental health issues. I’ve seen numbers of therapists and have had a number of issues over the years and because I’m transparent about them with my team I find that they then open up with their teams about theirs issues and get the help that they need when they need it.
I think the notion, or the myth, that vulnerability is weakness is wrong, and thanks to Brene Brown for having a lot of data around proving this out. But I think vulnerability and transparency are where strength and courage are. I think the best leaders of today are the ones who are open and honest about how they’re feeling and where they are, because when they’re open and honest it sets the example that others can be as well. It doesn’t matter what company you work at, there are mental health issues at them, and they can’t get dealt with or solved unless people talk about it. I would like to thank Bell for their #LetsTalk Campaign and Sklar Wilton for the Headway campaign, branding, and thought leadership that we are using extensively at Hotspex to make sure we are having those important conversations.
I have reaped tremendous rewards from opening up to my team about how I’m feeling and about any issues that I might have had. I’m raising three young boys who I want to grow up being happy and healthy. And not asking them, as was historically recommended, to bury their feelings, be a man, or be manly. That has been irrefutably proved to be harmful. And I’m so grateful for the Headway campaign and for all that you’re doing to help organizations take mental health seriously.
Mental health is the truly global enduring pandemic, mainly because it is something that you cannot see. And thanks to programs like Headway, it is getting us talking about mental health and dealing with it and this is going to make the world a better place.”
We are so grateful for the incredible team at Hotspex for sharing their journey with us and sharing their successes so they may inspire others to implement these mental health best practices in their own organizations.
Looking for more inspiration on how to bring change to your organization? We will continue sharing how our Headway members have prioritized mental wellbeing in their own workplaces in the hopes that it will help to inspire other leaders to do the same. We know that only through strong commitment and bold action can we see real change.