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.
This week’s story is extremely relatable and honest about how the impact of the pandemic on employees at Dig Insights, and how that team stepped up to provide resources and support. We had a chance to connect with Paul Gaudette, CEO & Co-Founder of Dig Insights, who shared more about their journey.
Why have you chosen to prioritize mental wellbeing within your organization?
(PG): We were originally inspired by our sponsorship in the initial Headway event in 2019. It was an enlightening experience to hear and share stories related to mental health, and how organizations are prioritizing this area of focus. However, making it a key priority for us came when we surveyed our employees following COVID. We survey our employees quarterly, where we ask questions related to stress, mental health and wellbeing. Once COVID forced us to work from home, we noticed quite a steep decline in our positive mental health scores, which was both work and non-work related. While we had employee benefits available that included an EAP for those who needed access to mental health resources, my own personal experience with our EAP made me realize that the access to those resources took too long, was not easy to navigate, and did not satisfy my needs – and I knew that I wouldn’t be the only one with that perception. So, we looked into supplemental resources, explored external solutions, created internal committees, continued to survey our staff and solicited feedback to ensure that mental health was a priority in the organization.
What has your organization done recently to support the mental wellbeing of your employees?
(PG): We have added additional resources to our employee benefits, specifically Inkblot Therapy, which helps to bring mental health to the forefront of the conversation with convenient and quick access to care. We have an employee-led Health and Wellness committee which puts together newsletters related to self care (cooking, exercising, mental health, etc.). We have significantly increased our hiring to ensure we have greater internal resources to take the strain off of our teams that have been working tremendously hard from home this past year. We have added additional questions specifically around mental health to our employee survey to understand how we could better support our employees and ensuring that employees know how to access resources. And prior to COVID, the management team all had training related to mental health from Morneau Shepell, which helped to start the initial conversation about mental health in our organization.
What is the biggest barrier or challenge to making headway with mental health in your organization?
(PG): Everyone working from home has made it more difficult to get a pulse on the organization as it relates to mental health. We share stories, often of how difficult it is to work at home while the kids are also at home remote learning. We talk about workload, and general stress. But the impact of working from home, not being able to take the vacation you are looking to take, not being able to see friends and family, not being able to have a wedding that you have planned for two years – all takes a significant toll on our mental health. And we don’t often have a forum to talk just about each other’s mental health because of the nature of WFH and the lack of community. That’s why it’s important to set aside time to check in on people, to not just be in business meetings all day without some level of chat beforehand, and to genuinely empathize with everyone’s situation that causes poor mental health as they are all somewhat different but nevertheless difficult.
How has the pandemic influenced your organization’s prioritization of mental health and what actions, if any, would you attribute to the pandemic?
(PG): As mentioned, the pandemic really has propelled the conversation and importance of mental health in our company. The shared at-home realities have made it easier to talk about our struggles, even if they are slightly different. Our team has been incredible at supporting each other and keeping our culture as great as it has been. Our Fun Committee quickly organized events that kept us engaged from the onset of the pandemic, from online poker, virtual escape rooms, online paint nights, and even getting half the organization to participate in an 8-week Fit Factory exercise program.
But while the efforts to keep spirits high has been incredible, it is no-doubt overshadowed by the loss many of us have experienced this past year. Relatives getting sick and passing; feelings of extreme stress and fatigue; not feeling as if those resources are available to you when you need them. Hearing about each of these situations has made our commitment to mental health stronger and necessary.
What are three things you pledge to do in the next year to further prioritize mental wellbeing in your organization?
(PG): We are looking to support an employee-led research initiative around mental health, and scoping what that could look like. We are initiating more management training currently which talks about mental health. We are initiating ‘clubs’ at Dig to bring greater social moments to the organization to help with that feeling of lost community. But most importantly, we pledge to not just continue, but also reframe the conversation in the our organization around mental health – being able to measure your own mental health and recognizing when you are suffering; having tools to cope with stress and poor mental health; and have resources to access when you are in need of care.
What does the future of mental wellbeing look like in your organization and how will you get there?
(PG): To be honest, I don’t know what the future of mental health looks like at Dig. But I do know that our company has always been supportive of ideas, supportive of initiatives, and open to suggestions on how we can improve. Our employees are very much engaged in this area, and they have been instrumental in helping us advance the conversation – and we will continue to leverage their passions and experiences in helping us shape the future of mental health at Dig.
We want to thank Paul Gaudette for sharing this incredible story. We found his account to feel so real to what all of us have been going through in the time of the pandemic and this shift to work-from-home. There is an authentic understanding of their individual team members experience and the need to provide more resources and support than what they had at the time.
We love Paul’s humility in knowing we don’t have all the answers, but there is a clear commitment to look for solutions and engage all employees to test and learn along the way. Thank you Paul!
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.
Learn more about Headway, a movement to promote and support healthy minds at work. Download Headway resources and guides to help your workplace start the conversation about mental health.
Business Case for Healthy Minds at Work: Hard facts that show the positive financial impact of implementing mental health programs in the workplace.
Resource Roadmap: Links to Canadian organizations that specialize in supporting mental health in the workplace.
Employer Guide: An integrated and holistic way of thinking about workplace mental wellness.