A conversation with registered psychologist Tessa Burns Martin

WestJet
By WestJet | | 3 min read

The WestJet Group has been actively supporting the mental wellbeing of its employees for several years. Not surprising, the impacts of COVID-19 led the company to look for new ways to renew and deepen its commitment to an enhanced mental health and wellbeing strategy.  

A cornerstone to this strategy is work underway with registered psychologist, Tessa Burns Martin. We asked Tessa about the essential role organizations play in supporting mental health, the work she is doing with the WestJet Group and the customized approach WestJet is taking to create a psychologically safe work environment that prioritizes mental wellbeing.

What role do organizations play in supporting employee mental health and wellbeing?

Now more than ever, the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and home. When employees aren’t set up with the appropriate tools to foster a balance or to give them permission to prioritize their mental health and wellbeing it can have negative impacts on all aspects of life.

There is substantial research to prove that investing in proactive programs that support the mental health of employees yields a great return on investment to organizations. When employees take care of their mental health, they are more likely to be their best selves both in their personal and their professional lives, translating to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and attrition in the workplace.

Tell us about the work you’re doing with the WestJet Group

My work with the WestJet Group began at a time when the airline industry was being decimated by the impacts of the pandemic. It became clear a few months into the crisis that a targeted and customized approach to supporting employee mental health and wellbeing was needed.

It began by working with more leaders from across the organization to offer virtual group sessions and individual conversations that acknowledged the collective struggles so many were facing. We shifted the focus from talking about mental illness to understanding what effective mental health and wellbeing looks like.

This work continues today as WestJet has made a commendable commitment to better understand the gaps and to recognize opportunities to support all employees through the pandemic and beyond, be this individually or working in collaboration with associations and union partners.

How is the WestJet Group leading the way in supporting employee mental health and wellbeing?

Interventions that achieve higher returns tend to focus on prevention and offer large-scale culture change or organization-wide initiatives for all employees, as stated in Deloitte’s 2020 report, titled “The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business”. The proactive, customized approach the WestJet Group is taking is incredibly innovative.

The executive leadership team recognized early on in the COVID-19 pandemic that the mental health of their employees was being greatly impacted, both personally and professionally. Executive leadership wanted to ensure the organization had an actionable strategy in place to uphold the company’s core value of Safety Above All – that includes not just physical safety, but psychological safety and wellbeing.

A targeted leadership program was put in place to equip leaders with the tools and resources needed to focus and prioritize their personal wellbeing, with the goal of helping to build and champion a psychologically safe workplace for all.

An integral aspect of the leadership program is to provide one-on-one counselling sessions with registered trained psychologists, starting with senior leaders. Like the common safety procedure you hear prior to take off, it’s imperative that you put your breathing mask on before assisting others. The counselling sessions offered to WestJet’s senior leaders assist in identifying how they can take better care of themselves, so that they can be better leaders who advocate for the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.  

If you are looking for support and resources, visit https://mentalhealthweek.ca/.

Tessa Martin Tessa Martin, Registered Psychologist