Sobeys Inc.’s mental-health program manager discusses simplifying support, the echo pandemic and the joys of new parenthood.
Q: What top challenges do you face in your role?
A: My role was created during the pandemic, so it’s probably no surprise that [mental health] tops the list. Sobeys’ workforce is made up primarily of essential workers in stores and distribution centres across the country. Supporting these pandemic heroes has become more challenging as well.
Q: What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A: One major initiative is mental-health education across the organization. I believe the pandemic has normalized the conversation around mental health enough that we can look at training a bit differently than organizations have done in the past.
We’ve over-medicalized mental-health training historically, when all we’re really trying to achieve is allowing people to be more human, more vulnerable and make conversations about mental health easier.
Q: How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?
A: Impact, adoption and anecdotal feedback are the three measures I look at. Mental health is mostly measurable, as complicated as it may seem sometimes. A program or initiative needs to provide outcomes. Adoption is important, as it speaks to the user-friendliness of any program. Lastly, mental health equates to conversations, so the qualitative feedback is where the data comes to life.
Q: What programs do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?
A: Communicating our mental-health resources to all employees has always been a challenge. We’ve recently rolled out a public website, Sobeys-MentalWellbeing.com, bringing our programs out from behind firewalls and log-ins, so our employees and their family members can find and access them anytime, anywhere, from any device. It’s also allowed us to share incredible stories about how employees have overcome mental-health challenges.
Q: What key human resources issues do you expect in the coming year?
A: The echo pandemic seems to be the consensus. As the world comes out of this pandemic, it looks and — maybe more importantly — feels different. Isolation and anxiety have taken a toll on a lot of people and all indications seem to be that those will manifest in increased disability and other challenges as things open up. How organizations communicate and support their employees will be crucial to minimizing those impacts and just doing the right thing.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
A: My wife and I had our first child during the pandemic, so my hobbies are currently changing diapers at near NASCAR pit crew speeds and reading the same children’s book over and over. When I get some time for myself, I enjoy golf and travelling. I’ve been lucky enough to have been exposed to different places and cultures and, as things open up, I hope to be able to give similar experiences to my son.
Q: What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A: Psychological coverage, as cliché as that may sound given my role. Living with depression, psychological coverage has made a bigger impact in my life than any other benefit I’ve used. We could all use some support, whether you’re dealing with a mental illness or simply being proactive to support your mental health. We have to do a better job communicating this benefit and streamlining how someone can access support.
Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada.