Taking our mental health advocacy to new heights across the world

October 10, 2019 Cath Schefer

As we recognize World Mental Health Day, we understand that supporting employee well-being is simply the right thing to do

 

It was around 15 years ago that I was surprised to hear an old colleague of mine was taking some time off work due to stress. This was someone I had a huge respect for having worked with him closely earlier on in my career and someone I would have thought most unlikely to be off work with stress. As I hadn’t seen him for a while, and as a close colleague and friend, I arranged to visit him at home to see how he was doing. I have to say I was sadly shocked with what I saw.

It was very apparent to me that the stress of work had built up for him and was now having a serious impact on his mental health. He was questioning his own capabilities and had completely lost confidence in his ability to do his job. I spoke to both him and his wife about the impact this was having not only on his health, but also on his family life. Unfortunately, he hadn’t initially recognized that he may be suffering from stress and neither had his wife nor his colleagues and friends. Because of the way he was feeling, he eventually sought help through his doctor and with support from his family, friends, and the business he made a full recovery. His recovery took around 6 months and he returned to work in a phased approach and continued his very successful career.

_q_tweetable:People are at the heart of everything we do at Stantec, so it’s important to me that my Stantec colleagues are all happy and healthy, both physically and mentally._q_

For me, this was a real turning point in my understanding of mental health and well-being. The experience taught me that you really never know what another person is dealing with on a daily basis and that stress can affect anyone, even those you least expect. It reinforced to me that we need to watch out for each other at work and to look after our colleagues and friends. As a business leader, I consequently became much more interested in actively looking at the numbers of people reporting stress related illness and I introduced discussions at operational leadership meetings related to this topic. At work we all need to be mindful of our own mental health and also of the stresses we place on those we are responsible for.

People are at the heart of everything we do at Stantec, so it’s important to me that my Stantec colleagues are all happy and healthy, both physically and mentally, and have a good balance between work and their personal life—that’s something worth striving for. 

 

Cath Schefer signs a pledge in partnership with the UK-based charity Time to Change to demonstrate our commitment to mental health awareness and advocacy.

 

Action in the UK and beyond

The strong relationship between levels of employee well-being, engagement, and performance is well reported. With one in four people affected by a mental health issue at some point in their lives, employers must do everything they can to facilitate communications about mental health. I am very pleased that positive mental health is an important part of the global culture in Stantec; supporting employee well-being and mental health is simply the right thing to do.

Awareness of mental health issues is on the rise in the United Kingdom and many other countries around the world. Barriers to conversations about mental health have been broken down by supportive high-profile UK celebrities—such as Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax—alongside Royal Family members Prince William and Prince Harry who have talked openly about their own issues with mental health. Some of our major clients are also leading the way on improving the health and well-being of their employees.

 

Awareness of mental health issues is on the rise in the United Kingdom and many other countries around the world. 

 

I run our global business where this topic and conversation takes on many forms. Here in the UK, for example, we’ve thought carefully about how to improve physical and mental well-being among our colleagues. Across our offices, we have rolled out a comprehensive well-being program, which is now in its fifth year. Opening the conversation about mental health issues has been a major focus of the program. For example, we signed a pledge with the charity Time to Change to demonstrate our commitment to breaking down the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues. We have also put in place support for those suffering mental health issues via an Employee Assistance Program, introduced Mental Health First Aiders, and delivered training for our line managers and HR teams on mental health awareness. We have started to encourage open conversations around mental health, supported by videos of employees and members of our senior leadership team who shared their own mental health stories.

It doesn’t stop there. The program is constantly evolving, and we are constantly learning. Well-being and mental health awareness campaigns have now also been rolled out in our offices in New Zealand, Australia, and continental Europe. We’re working with leaders across the Stantec community to explore fresh ideas and share our experiences with each other so we can develop a truly global program of well-being for the business.

 

EVP Cath Schefer says that "People are at the heart of everything we do at Stantec, so it’s important to me that my Stantec colleagues are all happy and healthy, both physically and mentally, and have a good balance between work and their personal life—that’s something worth striving for." 

 

A culture of compassion

As we recognize World Mental Health Day, I look forward to a future at Stantec where the work we are doing to support the mental health of all our employees becomes a living, breathing part of our global culture. I know by working together, we will help not only our people, but the communities we serve, thrive. 

About the Author

Cath Schefer

As Executive Vice President and Regional Operating Unit Leader, Cath Schefer overseas Stantec’s global operations outside of North America, including Europe, Africa & India, Middle East, Asia Pacific and South America. She leads business strategy, operations management, delivery of professional services and financial performance across Stantec’s global operations, working closely with the firm’s geographic and business line leadership.

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