Our Chief People Officer Deborah Sikkema, opens the conversation around mental health to increase awareness and accessibility through May and beyond. She is championing the cannabis industry to actively provide a workplace for world-class mental health standards.
May is Mental Health Month, and this year, it has been especially challenging as we unpack how the unknowns of a year-long pandemic has profoundly affected each of us. In speaking with our own employees, the day-to-day of living in uncertainty has left some of us overwhelmed and anxious, dealing with unexpected pressures and challenges of work and home.
The pandemic has upended our everyday routines; parents are now working alongside their children, often juggling homeschooling and work, and prolonged isolation has kept us from seeing friends and loved ones.
But more apparent, the pressures that our front-line staff who show up daily are faced with. Gone are the common lunch areas, workplace social activities that bind us, even human contact such as a much-needed hug is now taboo. It stands to reason that our front-line staff are going to feel vulnerable even when suited up in PPE. Contact-tracing has also taken a toll in all our workplaces across Canada for those that cannot work from home.
At WeedMD, we’ve moved to incorporating a seven-day, 24-hour-shift work schedule to ease the traffic in our facility changerooms and entry-exit areas. But our staff show up daily to our facilities tending to our plants and getting medicine and products out the door. And for that we thank them wholeheartedly!
Over the past year, the resiliency of our staff has been inspiring – the pandemic has demonstrated a compassionate workplace that comes together to offer support for the people and communities that surround them.
This has not gone unnoticed and when we solicited feedback, we heard from our employees, and it was loud and clear; more support around mental health is needed. So we mobilized these efforts to support emotional health and wellness and it’s been our focus to ensure every employee has the resources he/she needs anytime, anywhere.
As part of our comprehensive benefits program, we offer an Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP) free and available to all 250+ employees and their families. The program provides various services and support, including one-on-one counselling, health assessments, and crisis support. Often, we don’t check in on our mental health – putting work and our loved ones before our own needs can be a constant struggle. Now more than ever, we need to be reminded of the importance of checking in with our own mental health.
In addition to the EFAP program, we offer up to six paid wellness days for employees who need to tend to a sick child, care for an elderly parent or need to take a mindful moment and focus on their self-care. A program we hope will encourage our employees to feel safe and supported when they need it the most. On top of this, we offer an additional three paid days for employees that need to take days off for Covid isolation/contact tracing due to potential exposure. In fact, we are one of the few employers in Canada to offer paid wellness/sick days, but this needs to change!
Moreover, considering vaccination efforts, we have added two additional paid days for employees booking vaccine appointments during regular working hours and a recovery day if needed. And lastly, in recognition of “420” this year, we celebrated by awarding all employees with one additional paid day off, applicable to be taken any time during the 2021 calendar year. These are initiatives we’ve undertaken independent of what the Ontario government now provides (Worker Income Protection Benefit of up to three days paid).
And we’re not stopping there; a small but mighty company, WeedMD has always been a living-wage employer but now we’ve further increased our entry-level wages and we provide a comprehensive benefits package comparable to some of the world’s most profitable companies. We are taking further steps to provide an enhanced purse of benefits beyond health, dental, and vision coverage. Our insured benefits include a health spending account through MyHSA, wellness spending account, medical cannabis coverage, fitness, and other extended group health insurance benefits.
And most recently, in an effort to demonstrate that same loyalty that our employees have shown us over the year, we developed a shares purchase plan that makes our employees shareholders.
Let’s continue to promote an open dialogue, provide meaningful resources, and support our employee’s mental and physical well-being, every day of the year. This will be our industry’s greatest differentiator.