Mental Health in the Workplace

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines psychological health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to their community. 

Given almost half of working Canadians consider work to be the most stressful part of daily life [1], employers must take all reasonable actions to create and maintain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace [2].  

 Here’s a look at actions taken by Behaviour to promote psychological health in the workplace.  

The Company’s Role. 

Nine months ago, the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, brought the world to a halt for many, but not for us. The video game industry continued to thrive amidst the pandemic, and our employees had to adapt to a new reality and deal with the cognitive dissonance of being busy while the rest of the world moved in slow motion.  

The first thing we did was to reassure people—we told our employees that the standard 37.5 work week should not be a source of stress. We encouraged our teams to do the best they could under the circumstances, and our work schedule became flexible organically. Recent feedback gathered from Behaviour employees confirms that they really appreciate this aspect.   

We also introduced a Guide to Working from Home to help our employees manage “business as unusual” along with the mental and emotional challenges caused by this new situation.  

We then surveyed our employees to find out how the situation was affecting them and their families, and what we could do to make their lives easier. Based on survey results, we decided to offer a series of activities to help improve our employees—and their families’—well-being.  

These activities included:  

  • Virtual conferences on mindfulness  
  • Online fitness courses 
  • Online boardgame nights 
  • Online gaming tournaments, 
  • Ad hoc activities for kids (virtual magic classes, videoconference with an animal shelter) 
  • Virtual Happy Hours. 

We also provided webcams to employees who requested it and to all our managers so they could maintain at least virtual face-to-face contact with their team.  

Finally, we created a COVID-19 Useful Tools section on our employee intranet with information on the virus and details on resources available to them such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), health insurance coverage, a refund policy for home office expenses, among other programs.  

A recent study revealed that 20% of employees would benefit from their company’s EAP but that only 7% used it. These results prompted us to work with our partner Morneau Shepell to create specific days when BHVR employees can call a dedicated EAP number. These days offer them a confidential opportunity to discuss issues affecting their well-being.  

The Manager’s Role. 

Developing our managers’ awareness of psychological health is a top priority. As one study revealed, only 23% of Canadian workers would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue[3]. Managers are responsible for creating a safe space for their employees where they can talk about these issues, but few are trained to assess whether someone is emotionally distressed. 

This is what we are working on now: detecting a sudden change of conduct (which is the first sign of poor mental health). We can then refer to professionals, relieve the employee’s guilt and support them by jointly finding a suitable solution  (e.g. reduced working hours or flexible working arrangements). 

A couple of months ago, we worked with our managers on a more global scale and found out that our community also affected some of our employees’ psychological health (specifically those interacting directly with our players). 

As a result, we created participatory workshops to help them become more resilient, reduce the negative impact of certain types of content on their mental health, and give them strategies to improve individual relations with our community. 

Everyone can take steps to protect their mental health by taking time to do what makes them happy. Start today by making a list of the things you enjoy at work and outside the office and build them into your weekly schedule.  

And don’t forget to spend some downtime together with your colleagues, to laugh, relax and maybe share a virtual lunch or coffee break together.  

If you have concerns, make use of the tools your company has put at your disposal, and never be afraid to speak to your manager or HR team.  

Additional Info & Tools:  

Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) 
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) 
Best Practices and Tools Promoting Workplace Health and Well-being 

[1] The Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2016). National Standard. 
[2] According to Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. 
[3] Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2016). Mental Health. 

Marjorie Desriac
Human Resources Business Partner
Behaviour Interactive