“We’re here to support the whole employee”

“Employee assistance” means different things to different companies. Here at BMO, we start by looking at individual employees and the types of challenges they may encounter in their daily lives. These challenges can range from critical emergencies, such as urgent childcare or sudden health problems, to situations that can be overwhelmingly stressful…such as, say, planning a wedding.

“Our employee assistance program, which is run by LifeWorks, focuses as much on overall wellness as it does on crisis counselling,” says Natasha Backer, Senior Manager of Benefits & Recognition at BMO Canada. “We want to enable employees to tackle issues before they become serious, and LifeWorks is available to help with that 24/7/365.”

Since Natasha – along with Cathi Haff, Project Manager of Benefits & Recognition at BMO U.S. – know the ins and outs of our LifeWorks program from top to bottom, we asked them to give us the scoop, starting with: Did someone actually get help with their wedding planning? (Admit it, you were wondering too.)

Cathi: “Yes! The employee was in the middle of a big project at BMO, so LifeWorks helped her by compiling lists of vendors where she could book a hall.”

Natasha: “We encourage employees to call LifeWorks about their everyday issues. The whole point of our program is that it focuses on the employee as a whole and everything that they encounter in their daily lives.”

We get your life. Right down to your pets.

Cathi: “LifeWorks provides support on a multitude of topics related to employees’ well-being, such as relationships, pets, moving, disabilities, family issues, personal health, budgeting and even legal help.”

Natasha: “Of course, this is all 100% confidential, which is important to know because sharing personal information can be intimidating for those who may be worried about their anonymity.”

Cathi: “Absolutely. We don’t get any data about specific individuals or what people are calling about. All we get is aggregate data to help ensure that the program is being used.”

Natasha: “We only receive stories from employees who have volunteered information – for example, the employee who received help with her wedding planning shared this experience at a town hall. And – good news – we’re hearing feedback that employees seem to be less apprehensive about reaching out with their concerns than they used to be. As we continue to communicate our program’s benefits, word is spreading about the different ways it can help employees and their eligible dependents as well.”

Need a hand caring for kids or parents? We provide that too.

Cathi: “Employees often forget that our program extends to dependents, which is an important benefit, especially for those dealing with the double responsibility of caring for children and elderly parents at the same time. That’s why we offer programs for backup child and adult/elder care, which provide employees with short-term care services when they need it the most.”

Cathi: “The thing that I’d like to emphasize here is that there’s an intangible quality to employee assistance. As much as there are broad guidelines, it’s also just about recognizing what kind of help employees require and then providing those services. This is where LifeWorks comes in. We have a great relationship with them, and they act as though they’re a part of BMO. Together, we try to go above and beyond to provide the support that we feel our employees need.”

As cultural perceptions of health and wellness change, companies need to continually fine-tune their approach to employee assistance programs in order to meet the challenges that people face day to day. We want all employees at BMO to know that we’re here to provide that kind of physical, mental and emotional support around the clock, 365 days a year – even on your wedding day.