The Bank of Montreal is supporting employee mental health through several benefits, including access to a mindfulness app.

“We really appreciate the proactive nature of it,” says Jeff Scott, global head of benefits and wellness at BMO. “We’re trying to strike a balance in our offerings where we have smart proactive offerings as much as we have reactive support — the more traditional supports like mental-health coverage included in core benefits.”

The bank also helps working parents alleviate stress through its childcare and elder care offerings, as well as a virtual tutoring service. “This supports working parents in our organization and their kids who may be struggling, particularly during the [coronavirus] pandemic. We wanted to take another thing off their plate which hopefully contributes to sound mental health and supports them in their work-life balance.”

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According to a recent survey conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of BMO, 65 per cent of North American employees said they place importance on support for wellness, including mental health and extended benefits, when choosing an employer or new job. However, only four per cent of respondents said they rely on their employer for wellness support.

Scott believes this number is low due to stigma and a lack of understanding around mental-health resources. “I think just the ability to openly talk about mental health and wellness in the workplace is still something that needs work and we need to continue to promote as an open dialogue, which is something we’re definitely focused on at BMO. Secondly — and complementary to that — may well be related to understanding and access to information.”

When respondents to the BMO survey were asked about the top factors preventing them from prioritizing their wellness, they cited stress (67 per cent), money (65 per cent) motivation (64 per cent) and a lack of resources (54 per cent).

Employers can help overcome these obstacles by providing a broad spectrum of supports and opportunities, says Scott. “At the risk of stating the obvious, it starts with actually providing options and making sure those options are diverse and not one size fits all in nature. I think there’s a holistic view to how you can support things like wellness and mental health.”

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