What does it mean to have a robust employee well-being strategy?

Just ask TELUS, a leading communications and information technology company with $16 billion in annual revenue and 15.2 million customer connections spanning wireless, data, IP, voice, television, entertainment, video and security, healthcare, and agriculture. TELUS connects people to what matters most to improve lives and build a better future – and it starts with supporting and enabling its employees.

TELUS’ employees have long depended on the company’s technology, devices, and services to work from home – well before remote work became all the rage. Since 2006, TELUS’ employees have enjoyed flexible work arrangements, with approximately 75% of its Canadian workforce spending a portion of time working remotely.

In response to the global health pandemic, 95% of TELUS employees work from home, including 99% of domestic call center employees. As a result, the company has achieved higher levels of workplace satisfaction and productivity, as employees are empowered to find new ways to fit work into their evolving lives.

Just as TELUS was ahead of its time with its flexible work styles, the company is proving to be a pioneer in supporting employee well-being.

According to Sandy McIntosh, TELUS’ executive vice president, People and Culture, and chief human resources officer, “without a robust people strategy, you won’t have a business that will thrive or succeed.”

Under McIntosh’s leadership, well-being has become an ongoing cultural commitment and business imperative. TELUS has developed a strategy that recognizes the whole person and includes five interlocking dimensions that align with emerging industry best practices from the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the World Health Organization:

  1. Physical: The company offers physical fitness and well-being centers, as well as virtual fitness classes and apps, virtual care solutions, nutritional counseling, health coaching, and more. TELUS also hosts biannual well-being challenges for employees and household family members to promote healthy habits.
  2. Psychological: TELUS understands its employees are all somewhere on the well-being continuum and that each person’s situation is dynamic. The company offers industry-leading benefits coverage for mental health support and 24/7 support to mental health counselors and therapists through its Employee and Family Assistance Program and virtual care. In 2020, TELUS launched custom mental health training for leaders and over 90% have completed it. In May 2021, the company extended the reach by introducing similar training to all employees.
  3. Social: TELUS creates opportunities to connect employees at work, home, and in the community through initiatives like TELUS Days of Giving, as well as supportive resources, collaboration tools, and employee resource groups that offer mentoring, networking, peer support, volunteering, and coaching.
  4. Environmental: TELUS helps employees maintain healthy workspaces at home and in offices. In fact, TELUS is reimagining its offices for the future of work with work styles and well-being top of mind, offering a mix of private and collaborative spaces to support whitespace and brainstorming.
  5. Financial: TELUS supports all aspects of its employees’ financial well-being, offering competitive salaries and benefits and financial literacy resources, including a financial well-being hub where employees can find tools to help them reach their financial and life goals.

“Our job as leaders is to come at well-being from all five dimensions because well-being is not just mental and it’s not just physical,” said McIntosh. “Leaders have a responsibility to make sure that employees understand their financial situation, that the environment is appropriate, and their social connections are healthy. If you understand all of that and keep pressing the gas on all levers, you create a magical place where people want to be,” McIntosh explained.

For TELUS, it’s deeper than providing technology and tools. The company is working to create a common language, build leadership competencies and practices, and use data insights to shift mindsets and behaviors.

SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite provides TELUS with the technology to create a company culture dedicated to flexible work that in turn supports employee well-being. With cloud-based tools, employees can tap into engaging, individualized experiences. The company knows that a better employee experience will empower the workforce to provide better experiences to customers.

Very rarely does a superior or business leader say an employee must give up the things they love. But McIntosh says that employees often feel this way, especially after they have been promoted or move into a new role. Employees who quit a beloved hobby or stop exercising because they feel they don’t have the time may soon see the rest of their lives – including their performance at work – begin to free-fall.

“Nobody explicitly says to you, ‘Stop doing these things,’” said McIntosh. “But also, unfortunately, nobody explicitly says to you, ‘Keep doing these things.’ We have to, as leaders, overtly come out and say, ‘Is your self-care in check?’”

Making Good on a Commitment to Employee Well-Being

At TELUS, team member well-being initiatives aren’t designed to simply make the company look good. Rather, they exist to make employees feel good and perform at their best.

“We’re really focused on helping leaders understand we don’t mean fluffy stuff,” said McIntosh. “We don’t mean every Friday we’re having a pizza party. We mean that you understand that you’re leading other human beings.”

Take, for example, one TELUS benefit that provides employees, including their dependents, with up to CAD5,000 per year to spend on psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers – a benefit unmatched by its peers. TELUS also enables its team members to connect with registered mental health clinicians through a range of virtual care solutions and provides a free, unlimited subscription to the leading mental fitness app Calm.

“Human beings are complex, and we need to look at all five dimensions and put all of these ingredients together,” said McIntosh.

To learn more, watch Sandy McIntosh’s interview in an episode of Forward with Adam Grant.

Carolyn Judge Phillip is VP of Corporate Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors.
This also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.