As part of our 'A day in the life' series, we are celebrating special TD employees who have gone above and beyond to serve our customers, communities, and colleagues throughout the pandemic. In our latest instalment of the series, we would like to introduce you to Brad Jones, a Technology Delivery Lead and Well-being Ambassador in London, Ontario, whose career at TD goes back almost 30 years.
Brad Jones was a well-being ambassador in his heart long before he got the official title.
In his day job, Jones is a Technology Delivery Manager, where he supports the enterprise authentication platform that helps protect the security of customers using applications like EasyWeb and WebBroker.
But beginning in April of 2021, as the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic continued, Jones officially started volunteering to help promote wellness among TD colleagues as a designated Well-being Ambassador.
Jones' role as an ambassador is to bring awareness to the Bank's commitment to colleagues' total well-being across the organization by informing them of resources like the TD Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP)—a confidential counselling program for TD employees and immediate family members—and of supports such as benefits offerings for well-being needs, or well-being events.
When Jones started volunteering for the role, he knew it would be a perfect fit.
Not only because he was looking for a way to support his colleagues during a trying and drawn out pandemic, but as someone who has struggled with severe mental health challenges in his own life, the program gave him a chance to share his story in the hopes that it could help others.
Sharing his struggle
Eleven years ago, Jones was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and anxiety, along with obsessive-compulsive disorder. After beginning a course of a combination of medications, things got better for a while.
But then one night, after suffering a complete psychotic episode due to being overmedicated, Jones had to be removed from his home by police and paramedics. He woke up restrained at a hospital, and was soon committed to a mental health ward.
Things were so bad, that for a time, he didn’t recognize his wife until he began to stabilize.
"It was by far the worst experience of my life," said Jones, adding that his wife had to show him their matching tattoos for him to begin to recognize her when she first visited him in hospital.
Jones began therapy through EFAP and eventually went back to work at TD. While his life is more stable now, it took years of therapy, an attempt at suicide, and working through struggles with his mental health for Jones to arrive at a better place.
"I often didn’t see any hope and struggled with everyday tasks and getting through the workday," said Jones.
"Even though I had a loving family, and friends and a good job, I often felt lonely and worthless."
Jones said that in addition to receiving help from speaking with counsellors through EFAP, he has also benefited from other workplace supports, including once taking a three month leave of absence from his job to focus on his well-being.
Mental health support during the pandemic
Jones said that recalling traumatic memories while sharing his story with colleagues can sometimes be difficult. He said he does so in order for others to be more comfortable in sharing their own struggles, and because his journey is effective at helping to spread awareness of the well-being supports that are available to his colleagues, something that has become increasingly important in the age of COVID-19.
"Once the pandemic started and we were working from home, you could see your colleagues becoming more open and willing to talk about mental health, or other health challenges they're going through," he said.
"COVID kind of changed the landscape. Even though we are apart, in some ways we've gotten to know each other on a deeper level speaking to each other virtually from our homes."
The TD Well-being Ambassador program piloted in the U.S. in July of 2020, and Jones said he jumped at the chance to join the program in April of 2021 when it launched for employees in Canada, Europe and Asia.
Currently, there are 270 TD Well-being Ambassadors across the TD global footprint who work with various lines of business across the Bank, supporting colleagues in prioritizing their own well-being as part of the Bank's culture of care.
Approach to well-being at TD
On some mornings, Jones drafts emails about well-being to colleagues in his department, filled with information and tips related to Bank-wide themes that are aligned with one of the four aspects of well-being at TD: physical, mental/emotional, financial and social.
Before the launch of each theme, the TD Benefits & Well-being team provides ambassadors with a toolkit of content and resources related to each aspect of well-being, and each ambassador delivers that information in the best ways suited to their work teams, whether it's via email, during team meetings, or as part of town hall meetings on well-being.
During these meetings or in the communications he prepares, Jones said he often shares three pieces of advice for his colleagues:
First, he encourages them to reach out to EFAP if they are struggling, as he recently did again regarding his daughter's own mental health challenges. Second, he encourages colleagues to talk to their managers so they are aware of situations and stresses in order for managers to be able to help.
Finally, Jones encourages colleagues to "put themselves first."
"This may sound selfish, but you can't help your family, friends or team if you don't look after yourself," he said.
"No meeting, deadline or project is more important than your health," said Jones.
For Jones, putting himself first takes the form of communicating clear boundaries with his managers, which includes working no more than 37.5 hours per week.
"My plate is very full both professionally and personally, and after I returned from a leave of absence years ago, I am limited to working those hours for my own health," he said.
"I'd love to do more, but I am doing what I can, and every manager I have encountered has been really supportive about this."
Jones recalls one recent meeting with colleagues in which he shared his personal struggles and how he benefited from employee well-being resources like a short-term disability program and flexible work options, which inspired several colleagues to thank him for his openness and to share their own stories with him.
One employee who approached Jones explained that he wanted to take time off from work to focus on his own mental health challenges, but that he was too afraid to ask for it.
"He wanted to take time off but didn't know how that would go over," said Jones.
"I told him that I've had about 10 managers at TD and they have all been understanding. This person is now taking the time he needs."
Sasha Bratic, Senior Manager of Technology Delivery, and Jones' manager, said Jones' stories inspire confidence in others.
"They make us all better humans," said Bratic.
"His courage to face his fear in bringing important awareness across the Bank makes him stand out and inspires others to be less afraid of asking for help or assisting others who are struggling."
For Jones, the reward is in connecting with colleagues, and helping them find the right path on their well-being journey.
"When I was a teen, I wanted to help people and make a difference," he said.
"This role allows me to feel like I have truly accomplished something. It allows me to help others and continue working on myself because we are all a work in progress."