As the coronavirus pandemic switches to an endemic phase, employers are taking a more holistic approach to mental health to make sure everyone is well-equipped and feels supported, says Julie Cousineau, partner and health practice leader at Normandin Beaudry.

Earlier this year, the consultancy conducted a study that found almost 50 per cent of Canadian organizations trained their managers on mental health in 2022, representing an increase of seven per cent from the previous year.

“[Training managers] is becoming a more standard way of addressing mental health,” says Cousineau. “But now that organizations have trained their managers, what’s next? We’ve seen changes happening in a few ways related to entering an endemic phase.”

Read: Telus training managers to recognize signs of employees experiencing mental-health struggles

One change is learning how to use management practices as a way to prevent mental-health issues from escalating, notes Cousineau, adding employers are switching the focus from direct intervention with specific employees to creating a generally supportive environment.

“This involves recognition and support from managers by listening, rather than just detecting a problem. It’s important to listen and understand where people are, because what we realized in the last three years is people are going through different phases and handling the effects of the pandemic differently.”

Cousineau believes annual or quarterly performance reviews are a good opportunity for managers to actively listen and integrate mental-health training into their regular management process.

Read: 2022 Healthy Outcomes Conference: How is the pandemic changing plan sponsors’ mental-health strategies?

Another focus for mental-health support as the pandemic wanes is incorporating a wider range of resources, she adds. “In the past, there were standard services like the employee assistance program or psychological coverage through group benefits. But coming out of the pandemic there are many different channels to support employees, whether it’s in person or virtual, using online tools. We’re seeing more of the one-stop-shop approach where all of the different mental-health services are integrated into one place.”

For employers with hybrid work arrangements, it’s important to view these arrangements through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens and be open to the individual realities of each employee, says Cousineau.

“Employers need to be open and listen to the reasons why a person prefers working from home or from the office, instead of trying to convince them one way or the other. They need to approach a return to the office step by step because some employees haven’t been in the office for a long time and need an adjustment period. Giving employees time to adapt and reconnect will yield more long-term benefits compared to short-term productivity.”

Read: 56% of U.S. white-collar workers reporting improved mental health due to hybrid work: survey