In the age of the #MeToo movement, the coronavirus pandemic and the global outcry for social justice, Canadians workers have been glued to their phones or tablets. Doomscrolling — the ongoing consumption of negative news — is taking its toll on their mental health.

Doomscrolling is on the rise in Canada and employers need to be aware of the effects it has on employee engagement and productivity, says Brian Hughes, vice-president of human resources at disaster and recovery restoration company First Onsite Property Restoration.

“Organizations that aren’t talking about the effects of the daily news on employee well-being are missing an opportunity to check in with their employees to figure out what’s actually happening within their environment,” he says, noting that, since social media is everywhere, employers need to acknowledge the times they’re living in and what employees may be experiencing.

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When employers are constantly checking in with their employees, they’ll more effectively recognize signs that they’re being adversely impacted by daily doomscrolling, says Hughes. He also suggests they look for a rise in short-term disability claims, prevalent use of sick days, changes in employee behaviour or team dynamics and increases in employee-relations matters.

In 2021, First Onsite invested in a digital mental-health and resiliency platform that provides skill building and practice exercises through various videos and other resources, rooted in mindfulness. To ensure employees have readily available access to the help they need, the platform has a button they can click on while interacting on the site to get mental-health support immediately.

The platform includes a mental-health and well-being care model that educates company leaders on how to create a judgement-free space where employees can talk about the issues they’re struggling with, how to listen with sensitivity, how to refer and respond as needed and follow up to see how the support mechanisms provided are working and meeting employees’ support needs.

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To build employee awareness of the platform, First Onsite sends out monthly company-wide communications to remind employees to take time for themselves and encourage them to sign up for the platform. Those who are signed onto the platform receive biweekly reminders to take time for a mental-health break, as well as daily alerts with tips or reminders to stick to or complete focus plans they’ve created for themselves. And during the onboarding process, all employees are introduced to the platform and its tools.

First Onsite’s employee engagement survey scores in Canada have increased since the launch of the digital platform, rising from 3.97 to 4.05 based on a five-point scale. The initiative was so successful, the company has now implemented it across North America, says Hughes. “We tie engagement to productivity, so it was really validating to see the steps we took in launching this platform was well worth it.”

“Organizations should be proactive . . . and give employees the skills, tools and accessibility to strengthen their resiliency and . . . overall well-being,” he adds, noting this approach requires commitment and employers that care about what’s going on in the world — and how it’s impacting employees — will prevail in these tumultuous times.

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