In any given year, one in five Canadians experience mental health problems or illness. And, in any given week, 500,000 Canadians do not go to work because they are dealing with a mental health issue. There are many factors that can contribute to mental health problems; and while mental health awareness — like CMHA Mental Health Week from May 7-13— has done much to reduce the stigma, in many cases, the underlying issues that affect mental health still remain.
The average Canadian worker spends approximately one-third of their days at work, but what are workplaces doing to help improve employee mental health? Your employees are your company’s biggest asset. You rely on them to help achieve business goals, remain profitable and help you grow — what are you doing to support their mental health and wellness?
To support and improve mental health in the workplace means much more than simply reducing the stigma. There are already people suffering silently in the workplace. Stress is a silent killer that can be a trigger for other serious health problems and also goes hand-in-hand with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. And, only 23% of Canadian workers admit that they would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a mental health issue.
Are your employees suffering in silence?
Multi-faceted approach to mental health
At Thorpe Benefits, we have built employee wellness programs around many areas, including employee mental health and wellbeing. This is such a large and diverse topic that it requires a multi-faceted approach — one that is simultaneously proactive and reactive while also focusing on the individual and the workplace as a whole.
A proactive mental health wellness program educates around the signs and symptoms of mental health issues while introducing strategies and implementing concepts around subjects such as mindfulness and meditation, stress management, financial wellbeing, elder care, time management and relationships. These are not one-day education seminars or a single app for employees to learn and use on their own. It is a multi-faceted approach so that employees can be in a psychologically supportive environment while learning about the different layers of mental wellbeing so that they can implement the concepts in different ways to form new habits in their work and home life.
But being reactive in your approach to mental health awareness at work is just as important as being proactive. People are already suffering and strategies and tools need to be available to them. Do employees know how they can get help? Does your employee benefit plan support struggling employees? Is there a supportive back-to-work strategy to facilitate people who have taken a leave of absence for mental health reasons?
Finally, employee mental health programs also require turning the camera on yourself. The workplace can trigger poor mental health — big workloads, tight deadlines, long hours, management conflict, harassment, discrimination, and bullying can all lead to poor mental health for employees.
National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
It’s a lot to take in. Which is why we started by saying that mental health wellbeing requires a diverse and multi-faceted approach. As well as our general Organizational Wellbeing Assessment process, we also help companies assess specifically where they are at related to supporting mental wellbeing. This mental wellbeing assessment aligns with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. We help organizations understand The National Standard guidelines, identify where their strengths and opportunities lie and what they can do to improve.
This National Standard is Canada’s guidelines, for improving and promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work. Is it a mandated document? No. But is it already being referenced in legal proceedings related to workplace mental health? Yes.
The guide outlines 13 aspects of creating psychological safety and health in the workplace. They are:
- Organizational culture
- Psychological and social support
- Clear leadership and expectations
- Civility and respect
- Psychological demands
- Growth and development
- Recognition and reward
- Involvement and influence
- Workload management
- Psychological protection
- Protection of physical safety
These 13 aspects provide a benchmark to help companies better understand their own work environment, culture and risk factors so that we can begin to peel back the layers and develop practical strategies at different levels of the organization to ensure a psychologically safe and healthy environment which also works to boost employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity while also reducing health costs, employee turnover and lost time.
Find out what you can do to support your employees’ mental health and wellness today.