Telus Communications Inc.’s proactive approach to fostering employee mental health led to its win in the Mental-health program category for companies with more than 1,000 employees at Benefits Canada‘s 2023 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 20.

The organization’s winning strategy includes a commitment statement, signed by its leadership team, affirming that a psychologically safe and healthy workplace is a priority. “Now more than ever, employers need to prioritize mental health and total well-being,” says Janet Young (pictured, second from left), director of well-being, health services and people and culture at Telus.

“Our belief is that mental-health support is not a temporary or a nice-to-have organizational focus, but an absolute requirement for us to support our team members and create an amazing place to work. It’s also key to our business success.”

Read: Are workplace mental-health programs evolving beyond the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace?

To walk the talk, the organization established a well-being and mental-health advisory group — which includes company directors who are accredited in multiple well-being and mental-health certifications and degrees — to ensure its strategy reflects the ever-changing needs of its workforce. It also created an internal mental-health first aid network.

To ensure its well-being strategy is up to date, Telus assesses it annually against the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and has an external consultant review and confirm its findings every three years.

The company also provides annual, customized mental-health training within its business units, as well as training for all employees every two years, which it has also built into its onboarding process, so staff are well-equipped in this area from day one.

This year, Telus added an Indigenous wellness benefit to its total rewards package, which provides team members who identify as Indigenous and their families up to $1,000 to access traditional healing practices and ceremonies, medicines and supplies and travel expenses. It has also disseminated numerous articles addressing racism and promoting allyship with all disenfranchised communities.

“We recognize that the intersection of [diversity, equity and inclusion] and well-being is a dynamic relationship that reinforces organizational success,” says Young. “We know that fostering a sense of community and belonging for all of our team members regardless of their abilities, backgrounds or identities, is a vital contributor to overall health and well-being.”

Read: How employers can use benefits offerings to support Indigenous employees

In 2016, Telus implemented an early intervention program, in which employees receive a supportive call when they’ve been absent from work over three consecutive days. It also hosted robust education and awareness campaigns in recognition of Canadian Mental Health Week, World Mental Health Day and Healthy Workplace Month.

Telus also identified specific job demands and roles that were linked to higher mental-health incidence. This process helped the organization understand the impacts of psychological safety, scheduling, job fit, job design, team culture, virtual work, overall engagement and the role of the leader on employee mental health and enabled it to find opportunities to improve the employee experience.

Additionally, it launched a new initiative to decrease short-term disability that focuses on identifying the root causes. The organization also embarked on a multi-pronged discovery phase that included listening tours and did a deep data analysis to pinpoint particular areas within the larger business unit that may need more support.

“We believe that our well-being and mental-health strategy needs to be at the core of how we operate as a business,” says Young. “With the changing demographics in the workplace, the shifting expectations of team members in a post-pandemic world and the increasing demands on businesses and leaders, the ecosystem in our organization has to be one that recognizes the importance of individual well-being and psychological safety to secure our continued success.”

Read: Survey finds Canadian employees who volunteer have better mental health