Discussing Burnout And Mental Health Issues With Sandy McIntosh

Small Business Canada

Sandy leads TELUS’ people and culture. Her team is responsible for creating business, talent, and culture practices that drive remarkable human outcomes. Sandy believes the path to brand advocacy is paved with exceptional customer and team member experiences, and she’s made it her mission to reimagine them to fuel TELUS’ differentiation and ability to deliver on our social purpose to improve lives and the world we live in.

Sandy’s authentic, creative and collaborative style promotes a culture of integrity, innovation, and spirited teamwork. In addition to supporting TELUS’ Human Resources and Compensation Committee, she advises the Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors, counseling them on culture transformation, labor relations, cost transformation, mergers and acquisitions, total rewards, and talent development programs to accelerate TELUS’ growth and performance.

During her tenure, TELUS has achieved team member engagement in the top 10th percentile of employers globally, has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, inducted into the Top 10 Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame, and named Best Diversity Employer for several consecutive years.

Sandy demonstrates TELUS’ community promise to give where we live, serving as Vice-chair of the TELUS Toronto Community Board since 2010 and acting as Honourary Chair for The Weekend to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for the past nine years. Sandy is recognized as one of the Women’s Executive Network’s Most Powerful Women and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. She has also received a Leadership Excellence Award in the Trailblazer category from Women in Communications and Technology and is identified as a Woman Worth Watching by Diversity Journal.

Sandy holds an Executive MBA and a Master of Industrial Relations degree from Queen’s University, and an undergraduate degree in Public Administration from Carleton University.


Q: Why does Canada’s mental health crisis require the immediate attention of all employers?

A: Even with the help of a crystal ball, none of us could’ve predicted what transpired last year. The global health pandemic and devastating acts of racial injustice that happened last year, and for many years, have accelerated the mental health crisis in Canada. The impact spans generations, genders, and ethnic groups in different and often inequitable ways.

Canadian employers need to acknowledge the full extent of the crisis and manage mental health and well-being like any other business risk.

We have an obligation to get it right by sharing supportive norms, breaking the stigma, enabling healthy ways of living and working together, and putting the right policies, benefits, resources, and tools in place to ensure equitable access to optimal mental health. 


Q: How does TELUS’ multidimensional well-being strategy recognize the ‘whole person and foster a culture of care?

A: We’ve always put our people first, and this past year has only reinforced that it’s always been the right thing to do. Our well-being strategy considers five integrated dimensions – physical, psychological, social, financial, and environmental – that are in line with the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the World Health Organization. We recognize our team members are all somewhere on the well-being continuum and each person’s situation is dynamic. We need to meet them where they are.

We’re focused on shifting mindsets and behaviors, working to create a common language, building leadership competencies and practices, and using data and insights to establish thoughtful initiatives. 


Q: What are some policies and programs established before COVID-19, that have helped keep team members engaged and well throughout the pandemic?

A: We significantly evolved our well-being strategy four years ago, and implemented our flexible Work Styles program more than a decade ago. Our leaders trust team members to make good decisions about how and when they work, offer extra support when needed, find creative ways to stay connected, and help them focus on what matters most. More than 90% of our leaders took mental health training last year, and 93% of team members recognized their efforts to support their health and well-being in our 2020 engagement survey. 

We’re also continuing to provide ‘always on’ mental health and well-being support, including 24/7 counselling, up to $5,000 in mental health benefits, access to virtual care solutions, a free subscription to the Calm app, and much more.


Q: Why is it important for TELUS to make the future friendly for its employees, and why should every week be treated like Mental Health Week? Note: original question read: Why is it important to make the future friendly with its employees and why every week should be treated like Mental Health Week?

A: We’re a people-first, purpose-driven company, and our team members wake up every day determined to create remarkable outcomes for our customers, communities, and each other. We use technology to make healthcare more accessible, create a safer food supply, give back to our communities and connect those in need to what matters most. We need to be well to make an impact, and shifting mindsets and behaviors requires daily commitment. That’s why we treat every week like Mental Health Week. 


Q: Can you please share some tips and advice to small business owners that will influence their experience and position on the well-being continuum?

A: The book, Unwinding Anxiety, positively links curiosity to mental health. Curiosity is a superpower, but it doesn’t require superhuman abilities. Given well-being is unique and dynamic, be curious about practicing self-care. Here are a few suggestions: 

  •         Create space between work and home life; try a virtual commute before and after work
  •         Maintain social connections; schedule virtual coffees or distanced walks 
  •         Make time to move or stretch; take meetings while walking
  •         Express gratitude; it triggers a dopamine response
  •         Make nutritious food choices; the link to mental health is scientifically proven 
  •         Talk about how you’re feeling; share tips and learnings
  •         Leverage available tools and resources
  •         Consider volunteering; it’s linked to happiness
  •         Prioritize sleep
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