Health and wellbeing at McGill

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The pace of life continues to accelerate as change has become the constant. Organizations and employees require a remarkable level of resilience and adaptability in the face of these changes.  For employers like McGill who find their strength in the knowledge, talent and engagement of their people, mental health and wellness themes have become a top priority. 

McGill’s Health and Wellbeing Program stands proud alongside of other organizations, gathered to share best practices at a recent conference on health and wellness, bringing together hundreds of HR professionals, managers and mental health experts. François Labrecque, Talent Management Advisor, Organizational Development at McGill, was among the attendees.

A systematic approach

Enthused by the value that organizations are increasingly giving to health and wellbeing, François was equally struck by just how much McGill is already doing to ensure a systematic approach to promoting, maintaining and increasing employee health and wellness, and thus to make a little more ‘positive noise’ about it. 

“We don’t want people to think about work-life balance or stress management only when issues have escalated to a critical level,” explains François.   “We have many offerings that aim at heightening awareness and developing skills related to self-management, maximizing healthy work conditions and management practices, lifestyle enhancers, as well as opportunities for individual, team and unit interventions when issues begin to emerge.” 

According to François, it is really important to witness what other organizations are doing. “It is encouraging to see that we offer many similar programs, training sessions and tools. This sharing of information gives us valuable insights in structuring our approach and replicating best practices in terms of how other programs are structured and managed.”

McGill’s program – three main elements

McGill’s Health and Wellbeing Program has three elements:  raising awareness, training and development, and disability management.  All are valuable in promoting and increasing the health and wellbeing of employees, and promoting a culture of health at the University.

Raising awareness:  Through its program, HR Benefits provides valuable information on both physical and mental health related topics, provided through a variety of means:  lunch-time presentations and activities delivered by experts in their field from both inside and outside McGill, the annual Health Fair, and links to articles and resources on the HR website – click here.

McGill is fortunate that it can count on its own network of highly renowned experts on health and other related issues.  Getting them involved in the Health and Wellbeing Program doesn’t take much convincing.  Community partners in action and session leaders include Athletics, Dietetics & Human Nutrition, the Faculty of Medicine, Food and Dining Services, the Faculty of Education and the Douglas Hospital.

Training and development:  HR’s Organizational Development team hosts numerous workshops and training sessions on a variety of topics, aimed at providing the tools and knowledge to help employees enhance their interpersonal effectiveness and engage fully in their jobs and in their work community.  Training offerings include topics such as Emotional Intelligence, Stress Management, Change Management, and Conflict Management.  Other offerings include practical tips and tools on how to involve employees in problem solving and decision making.  For more information on training sessions and registration, click here.

The OD team also provides opportunities for networking and peering support, and sharing of best practices across the University, under the umbrella of ‘Strength in Community’.  Employees can sign on for CoachingOurselves Reflection Cafés, Co-Development groups and Lunch ‘n Learns on topics such as work-life balance and polarity management.  For more information, click here.

Disability management:  One aspect of the disability management program focuses on the return to work following a disability. This can be an overwhelming experience.   Preparing and planning for an effective return helps to ease the transition and reintegration back to work for both employee and supervisor.  Having a plan in place helps the employee build confidence, reduces the stress and anxiety of returning from a lengthy absence, and reduces the chances of relapse. 

A word on McGill’s Employee Assistance Program

McGill also has a solid Employee Assistance Program, offered through Longpré & Associates. The EAP is an outside counselling service that offers free, confidential, short term counseling and referral services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to eligible employees and their families.  Services include counselling on personal and/or job stress, substance abuse, balancing work and family, traumatic events and much more.  You can arrange for an appointment by calling 514-843-7009 or 1 800 567-2433. Visit their website – click here.  

EAP also offers coaching for managers when a difficult situation occurs, such as behavioural problems in the workplace, or employees presenting personal difficulties, etc. This type of support encourages the development of abilities in coaching employees in difficult circumstances.

A simple equation

Managing health and wellbeing at work should be a shared responsibility with a simple formula:  identifying organizational risk factors (ex: work/life balance) + individual variables (ex: guilt, anxiety, etc.) = health and wellbeing at work. It’s about maintaining balance between organizational demands and what is reasonable for the individual to accomplish, according to their role, responsibilities and skills.