Bell’s VP of HR on making mental-health training mandatory

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Just like every other employer, Canada’s largest telecommunications company must develop a strategy to address the pressing – and costly – concern of mental wellness in the workplace. So what is it? Here, Bell’s VP of HR explains the company’s approach to educating as many managers as possible.

“We have three modules,” begins Marie-Josée Boivin. “Module 1 is about explaining mental health [and] anti-stigma, helping leaders identify early signs, helping leaders know how to react when somebody leaves on sick leave for mental health reasons and so on.”

“Module 2 is way more practical,” she continues. “For example, one of the recommendations in Module 1 was, if your employee is on sick leave, don’t be afraid to call them up—to follow up, to reach out to them. Module 2 will go way deeper: when you have that conversation with your employee, here are the key sentences; [here’s] how to conduct such a conversation.”

“Modules 1 and 2 are actually mandatory for every single person in the corporation—from the CEO to front-line leaders,” adds Boivin.
Once Bell employees have completed the first two modules, they can choose to take the third and gain an official certification in mental health training, reveals Boivin. The hope is that if enough managers are well informed about mental health, there’ll be an inevitable change in culture.

“They are the frontline people,” says Boivin. “They are the ones that interact day to day with their employees, that have to manage teams, that have some sort of influence. So this was kind of a proactive view that if you train your leader to understand the problems, to understand how to react, it’s going to influence the whole culture within the organization.”

Boivin says the initiative brings about positive, measurable results; “We’re able to see an improvement in terms of the number of people who on leave of absence and [come] back to the office,” she said.

“People tend to come back way earlier because there is an openness and awareness on how you accommodate somebody who’s ready to come back to the office.”

Boivin added that Bell had also seen “some evidence” in terms of a decrease in the number of people going on sick leave in the first place.

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