Lakeside Process Controls Ltd. had gone eight years without a disability claim, but the company took notice when it saw three mental health-related short-term disability claims in the last two years.

“That’s where our journey on adding mental health to our wellness programs really began,” said Stephanie Enright, director of talent management and administration at Lakeside Process Controls, during Benefits Canada’s Mental Health Summit in Toronto on Nov. 8.

In 2013, Lakeside developed its first wellness committee, which asked why mental health wasn’t part of the program more predominantly.

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In response, Lakeside introduced mental-health topics in light ways to encourage as many employees as possible to get participate in activities aimed at maintaining or improving their mental health.

“Our strategy was to start with softer subjects and as people became more open to the dialogue and comfortable with the topic, we would increase towards talking about the heavier issues and the slightly darker topics that were important for removing stigma within the organization.”

The company focused on mindfulness and implemented a number of activities, such as knitting lessons, paint nights, art therapy, animal therapy and yoga classes. The company created gardens and outdoor summer spaces and it held an adult colouring contest.

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The company now provides mental-health training for managers, too. “The most profound piece of advice [from this training] was simply go talk to your employees,” she said. “And have the courageous attributes to be able to address the issues that are sticky and messy. So if you see somebody where you know there’s something personal going on that’s impacting the way they’re showing up at work every day, don’t avoid them. Talk to them. Encourage them to come and see you and have open and active dialogue.”

As Lakeside continues its work, it’s focusing on how to be more open and honest through the dialogue. Managers are openly talking to employees about the training they’re taking and looking at ways in which to better accommodate employees.

“We want [employees] to actively come to us and tell us what’s going on so we can be there to support them,” said Enright. “Because, at the end of the day, they are the most critical asset that Lakeside has.”

Read more articles from the Mental Health Summit

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