The crown corporation’s senior director of workplace health, safety and wellness discusses leaning into prevention, mental-health leadership training and reconnecting with nature.

Q: What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?  

A: One of the things I think is so special about the world of well-being is how agile and adaptive we can be. At the LCBO, we have an employee assistance program that we’ve expanded to include psychotherapy, social work and psychologists, but it’s also about leaning into prevention. With what’s transpired over the last three years, like other retailers, we’ve seen an increase in customer agitation and conflict, so we’ve been leaning into things like de-escalation and making sure our leaders are trained in mental-health support. We’ve also looked at other contributors to well-being, including grief support.

Q: What programs do you consider most successful/you’re most proud of?

A: The programs that have had the most success are the ones that meet people where they’re at. It’s a hard question to answer because the LCBO has three different lines of business — our corporate environment, our retail environment and our ware-housing environment — and the needs of each one are slightly different. But if I had to pick one, I’d say it’s our leaders’ commitment to mental-health support training and not just treating it as a ‘one and done.’

Read: Mental-health supports, training on the rise as a fifth of benefits plan members report poor mental health: survey

Another thing I’m proud of is our fireside chats, where senior leaders, including C-suite executives, talk about the real impact of mental health in their lives. That has had a huge impact on bringing down the stigma and normalizing a conversation for employees.

Career crib sheet

March 2020 — Present
Senior director, workplace health, safety and wellness, the LCBO

September 2018 — March 2020
Director, mental-health care, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

January 2017 — February 2019
Senior consultant, mental health and wellness program, the WSIB

August 2015 — January 2017
Senior specialist, performance improvement, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

September 2013 — August 2015
Project manager, the Tobacco Free Initiative, CAMH

Q: What top challenges do you face in your role?

A: Probably similar to other companies of our size and industry, it’s getting the message out there about what programs exist with the recognition that we have retail and warehousing employees who may not have easy access to emails. So communication is something we do as much as we can, but it continues to be a struggle to reach everybody. Stigma continues to be an issue as well. Even when an employee knows about the available resources, there’s still a reluctance to come forward.

Q: What key human resources issues do you expect in the coming year?

A: We have to acknowledge the way we work has changed significantly and so has the workforce. We’re all hearing about challenges in recruitment and retention of top talent with the antidote to that being a comprehensive people-first strategy.

Read: Employer health-care costs set to rise in 2021 due to pandemic: report

Speaking from my lens, we’re continuing to work through the matter of employees not seeking proper health care when the pandemic started, which can translate into delays in getting access and worsening of health issues that could have been addressed earlier. That’s why we keep highlighting early intervention and support, including supportive leadership in managing the realities in our workplaces.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

A: I love to travel and, in my spare time, I love to listen to music and watch movies. Other than that, just spending time in nature as much as possible. That’s been a real gift of the pandemic for me, reconnecting with nature and spending time with the people I love.

Q: What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?

A: My favourite employee benefit is our EAP because it really is a ‘meet you where you’re at’ type of tool, whether you’re looking for nutritional support or ideas for things to do with your kids or planning for a vacation. It isn’t just for getting out of a bad situation, it’s also how to celebrate and acknowledge goals you want to work on that support your well-being.

Read: EAPs increasing virtual delivery, taking proactive approach to meet employees’ shifting needs 

Sadie Janes is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.