Mental Health Check-Up: Workplace Wellness Post-Pandemic

May 2, 2023 4 Minute Read

Hands making a heart shape

No matter what you do for a living, you have likely faced enormous pressures in recent years ranging from the pandemic, social change, new technologies and fluctuations in the economy.

The theme of this year’s Canadian Mental Health Week, #MyStory, encourages people to talk about the many challenges they are facing in hopes that someone will see themselves in their story and be encouraged to open up about mental health and wellbeing.

“The pandemic shone a light on mental health in the workplace, and there’s been an incredible amount to unearth, unpack and support,”  says Martha McIver, CBRE Canada’s Head of People. “Our team is doing everything possible to make sure employees have the resources to cope with new challenges and the lingering impact of the past few years.”

To mark CMHA Mental Health Week, we spoke to McIver and CBRE Canada People Director Melanie Marchionda about the discussion around mental health in the workplace, and what CBRE is doing to support employee wellness.

All Hands on Deck

For many companies, employee wellbeing has traditionally been addressed through benefit packages. While things had been evolving over the last decade, the pandemic accelerated the conversations around mental health and employee needs rapidly evolved.

“Initially, with remote work being the primary way people were connecting, companies put together virtual sessions for leadership and HR professionals to talk about mental health support and best practices,” says Marchionda.

The People team rolled out Zoom town halls and several wellness series hosted by mental health experts. Some of these, such as the Medcan Wellness Series, which offers strategies for employees to improve their health and navigate difficult conversations, are still running today.

“You don’t know what people are going through. Sometimes just lending an ear and listening can make a big difference.”

“Introducing these tools and resources helped us reduce the stigma around asking for help,” says McIver.

In 2021, CBRE introduced a new mental health benefit for employees, which increased the existing allowance for mental health services. Virtual resources were made available, too, improving accessibility to care. And they partnered with our benefits provider on other aspects of wellbeing, such as financial planning tools and ReThinkCare parenting resources.

“Having an overall wellness strategy is important because there are many stressors that can affect someone’s mental health,” says Marchionda. “We have to bridge the gaps so that people feel supported in all aspects of their life.”

Also in 2021, CBRE Canada conducted a company-wide survey asking employees to vote for a national charity. They picked the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), a clear indication that employees valued mental health and wellbeing. The official announcement was made to coincide with World Mental Health Day.

CBRE employees have since participated in a range of fund-raising activities for CMHA. CBRE’s annual Charity Golf Classic in 2022 raised $110,00 for the organization.

Honest Conversations

In early 2022 CBRE launched the Not Myself Today program, a workplace mental health initiative organized by the CMHA. The program works with volunteer office ambassadors to build greater awareness about mental health, reduce stigma about mental illness, and foster safe and supportive work cultures.

“As a corporate champion for the program, it’s been great to see all the participation and initiatives taken across different offices,” says Marchionda.

She’s seen offices organize group walks, lunches, education sessions with local CMHA speakers, and even hula hoop competitions to raise awareness about mental health.

“These local events spark conversations and encourage people to have more personal touchpoints than they would otherwise have during a regular workday,” Marchionda says.

Honest conversations are also being promoted within teams. “We’re encouraging managers to have regular one-on-one check ins with employees,” says McIver.

Asking employees how they are doing, what their goals are and how they can be helped, creates safe environments for them to be honest about their needs and ask for help. This enables managers to redistribute workloads and find the right tools to ensure everyone feels supported.

Marchionda points out that it’s not necessary to be someone’s manager to check in on them.

“You don’t know what people are going through,” she says. “Sometimes just lending an ear and listening can make a big difference.”

“We all know people who struggle with mental illness or have experienced burnout in the workplace,” adds McIver. “We have to continue to have open conversations so that employees can be their best selves, do meaningful work and be better citizens in their communities.”

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