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Summit helps local leaders address employees' mental health

Two Thunder Bay women are looking to arm employers with tools to support employee mental health, an issue put in the spotlight by the COVID-19 pandemic.
krystina and deanne
Deanne Gagnon (left) and Krystina Hunter are looking to give employers the tools to support employee mental health and wellbeing.

Chances are you have heard of the term “quiet quitting.”

There is a lot of debate surrounding the pros and cons of quiet quitting – and whether you have indulged in the practice or not, it’s at the centre of a growing discussion over work-life balance and employee mental well-being.

Two Thunder Bay women, Krystina Hunter and Deanne Gagnon, are trying to improve workplaces by assisting employees’ mental well-being.

Hunter, who owns and runs KHunter workplace mental health solutions, has been an advocate for enhancing employee mental health and well-being in organizational structures since 2015.

She is also a trainer for the working mind in mental health first aid through the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Seeing a real need to assist workplaces to enhance employee mental health and wellness, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunter paired with Gagnon, a business facilitator who helps teams in the business thrive through team-building exercises and workshops.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an exceptional amount of stress and workload on leaders to balance operational demands with employee health and wellness needs like never before,” Hunter said.

“A lot of workplaces are seeing things like an increase in turnover, absenteeism, lower morale, recruitment issues, burnout, and these things all are directly related to employee mental health and well-being. So we kind of got together and wanted to use our collective expertise to provide a solution and a forum for leaders to develop skills to address this issue in their own workplaces.”

Hunter believes that a lot of leaders have good intentions to support their employee’s mental well-being, but due to a lack of skills, time, and knowledge to do it effectively, it often falls short.

After initial positive feedback from a group of local community leaders, she felt the need to share the success and use her knowledge and experience with other local leaders in the community.

Gagnon paired with Hunter to bring a one-day summit, 'Managing Employee Mental Health & Wellness Post-Pandemic,' for local business leaders to share creative solutions to address declining mental health in their employees. The event is planned for Oct. 5.

“We are bringing the water cooler conversations to the table because in companies, a lot of times the best ideas are by the frontline staff who don't necessarily have the opportunity to provide input,” she said.

“So that's kind of my mission – to help teams thrive, help people recognize their own value on their team.”

The summit is designed by the duo to provide local leaders with the tools, skills, and knowledge to effectively address employee mental health and wellness amid a rapidly-changing landscape.

The summit is broken down into two sessions with the morning session focusing on the educational aspects by exploring ways in which leaders can support their teams. The afternoon session will put the theory into motion as they are designed for leaders to work together and implement the solution strategies.

“We've had a lot of great leaders sign up from local organizations within the community,” Gagnon said. “I'm going to work them through a process where they actually get to take what they've learned, and then come up with solutions together for ways to implement what they've learned, specifically to their own workplaces, because different workplaces will have different needs.”

Hunter and Gagnon believe leaders who are looking for ways to best support their employees’ mental health and well-being would benefit the most from this summit.

The business partners acknowledged that although the event has “post-pandemic” in its name, the pandemic isn’t necessarily over. However, the pair say the event will address the way the pandemic created what could be long-lasting changes in work cultures.

“It's just helping leaders now navigate the new landscape, whether it's hybrid workplaces, employees with different stress levels or health struggles, or allowing flexibility and just feeling confident in their ability to support their team.”

The pair encourage leaders who want to adapt to the new working environment, from supervisors to upper management, to register for the summit. Registration is available online along with more information.

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