“Since the completion of the training, we are now seeing our units being more proactive in initiating discussions and understanding what community resources are available to further support our co-workers.”
Started MHFA Training: 2020
Staff Trained So Far: 315
IKEA is a leading home furnishing omnichannel retailer, offering a wide range of well-designed, functional products at prices so low that as many people as possible can afford them. IKEA Canada operates business through the IKEA vision – to create a better everyday life for the many people.
Why We Train Our Staff in MHFA
In 2019, during IKEA Canada’s annual employee engagement survey, their co-workers shared a need to feel supported with family obligations, personal illness, stress, and an overall healthy lifestyle.
“There was a very strong sentiment from leaders at all levels of the organization that they were challenged in how to have conversations about mental health with their co-workers,” explained Tanja Fratangeli, Country People & Culture Manager, IKEA Canada. “We were facing more and more of those conversations on a regular basis.”
By early 2020, IKEA Canada introduced flexible Wellness Days.
This allowed their employees to schedule up to 12 days off per year for either their own personal illness or injury, supporting a family member who may have an illness or injury, taking care of a personal emergency, participating in a community event, or volunteering at a not-for-profit organization, a day to recognize their own self-care, time to spend with their loved ones, spending time with a new pet, and for any weather-related absences.
Once the pandemic hit, information surfaced that co-workers were experiencing delays in seeking support or treatments which prevented them from an early return to work. Mental health and employee well-being were top concerns for IKEA Canada.
IKEA Canada soon partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) for their complimentary training ‘Caring For Yourself During COVID-19 and Caring For Your Team’.
“At that time there were some complimentary offerings for essential teams, and we fell into that category,” Fratangeli said. “So, a number of co-workers were provided with training dates and were able to access them.”
In addition, IKEA Canada started a partnership with the global organization in which they offered Stronger Every Day – a digital program for co-workers and their families, focusing on self-care, self-leadership, resilience, and mindfulness practice.
“The wellbeing of our coworkers, our communities, our families and ourselves has never been more important. The Mental Health First Aid training has taught us how to be more confident when supporting those around us, during the pandemic, and afterwards as well. Our leaders really appreciate this knowledge, and it has changed the conversations we are having already.” Mike Ward, CEO & Chief Sustainability Officer for IKEA Canada
While the Caring for Yourself course was created to meet an immediate need, IKEA Canada wanted to do more to support their leaders’ ability to be able to have mental health conversations with employees. For this they once again partnered with MHCC to offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to their store managers, customer fulfilment managers, and steering teams who all had a commitment to the training.
The MHFA training was developed by MHCC to improve mental health literacy and provide the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend, or a colleague.
“When the MHFA virtual training became available, we got back in connection so that we could offer it to our co-workers and our leaders,” explained Lori Guatto, Co-worker Relations Manager, IKEA Canada. “The first set of responses we got were ‘we’re happy to see something like this’, ‘this is great’, ‘this is a great initiative’.”
One of the first groups to go through the MHFA training was IKEA Canada’s entire executive leadership team including Mike Ward, CEO & Chief Sustainability Officer for IKEA Canada: “The wellbeing of our coworkers, our communities, our families and ourselves has never been more important. The Mental Health First Aid training has taught us how to be more confident when supporting those around us, during the pandemic, and afterwards as well. Our leaders really appreciate this knowledge, and it has changed the conversations we are having already.”
Since the implementation of MHFA, IKEA Canada has successfully trained 315 staff members and will have plans to train an additional 75 leaders.
IKEA Canada stated they have received positive feedback on the MHFA training with sessions filling so quickly that employees were put on a waiting list. “I received so many unsolicited comments and feedback from leaders saying they felt empowered, and they weren’t afraid to go into the conversation because they had a tool that they could use,” said Fratangeli. The team at IKEA stressed the fact that they didn’t want their employees to be clinicians to solve the problem, instead, they wanted to ensure they had the tools and resources to have conversations.
“Since the completion of the training, we are now seeing our units being more proactive in initiating discussions and understanding what community resources are available to further support our co-workers,” shared Tanya Bevington, Country Communications Manager at IKEA Canada. “We’ve been on a journey over the last couple of years when it comes to the mental health and well-being of our co-workers. Our training with MHFA supports the work that has already been underway, and this training is now another tool that we have equipped our leaders with.”
Simone Loosmore, Leadership and Competence, IKEA Canada, explained that the self-care module had the biggest impact on herself and the rest of the team. “You can’t be a good leader, help yourself or give your best to the company when you aren’t taking care of yourself. Self-care is about focusing on being your best self at home, at work, and having those tools and realizing how important it is,” she said. “Many leaders put their own self-care on the back burner. So, by recognizing it and the harm that it does by not doing it, really resonated with me.”
What the Future Holds
The future of mental health is bright for IKEA Canada.
IKEA Canada explained they will continue to focus on overall co-worker wellbeing, as well as bringing forward the Are you OK? Campaign to continue to empower their employees and encourage them to have those tough conversations.
“We were so happy to be able to participate in a training session like this because it really has laid the foundation for a lot of our upcoming initiatives and strategies that we plan on rolling out,” said Natasha Bagley, Co-worker Experience Manager. “It’s really all about creating awareness around the importance of mental well-being, and to inspire and empower all of our coworkers to meaningfully connect with those around them.”
The team is currently in the process of providing their coworkers with more control and choice to support them in their well-being journey.
“This is just part of the total picture, we plan to continue to equip our leaders with the ability to take more meaningful empathetic conversations with our co-workers together with the right partners so that we can support our co-workers to feel safe,” shared Fratangeli.” “This is just one component of a much bigger strategy for us.”
IKEA Canada stated they are committed to creating a safe environment to ensure they are taking care of their coworkers and ensuring their managers are doing it in the most empathetic way.
“It’s kind of empowering people just to have the conversations,” said Loosmore. “At its heart, IKEA is about co-workers connecting with our customers, and if our co-workers are not well and they aren’t in a position where they can engage with the customer around their home furnishing discussions and inspire them around home furnishings, we won’t have a business.”
To learn more about MHFA and how you can bring it to your workplace, click here.