Creating a Workplace That Supports Mental Health

Mental health can have a severe impact on business. When an employee is suffering, so does their work. 

Even before COVID-19, mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression had widespread prevalence in the workplace, taking their toll in the form of absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased healthcare costs and an overall reduction in employee wellbeing.

The World Health Organization estimates poor mental health costs the Canadian economy $50 billion dollars annually, with an additional $6.3 billion in costs directly related to lost productivity in the workplace.

Our current global situation has only made these circumstances worse. Since the pandemic began, 80 per cent of Canadians have reported a negative impact on their mental health.

Many organizations fall short when it comes to employee wellness. Mental health can often be a taboo topic, especially in the workplace. Only 32 per cent of Canadian employees feel their organization’s leadership is addressing mental health. 60 per cent of our working population expects their employer to prioritize mental health and provide adequate support and assistance.

Gone are the days when reimbursing a gym membership and taking ‘mental health minutes’ was enough. 

Carl Heyerdahl via Unsplash

Some Canadian companies have begun implementing mental health programs in their workplace. According to Deloitte‘s report, the average annual return on investment among the surveyed companies was $1.62 for every dollar invested.

But, not all companies are doing this. The most common reasons why? A lack of understanding of what would be most effective for employees, the stigma around conversations regarding mental health, and the time and resources required for implementation.

How businesses implement their mental health strategies matter greatly. While tackling mental health can be challenging, employers and HR professionals are in a powerful position to help. Now more than ever, Canadian employers have an opportunity—and a responsibility—to lead with mental health in mind.

With Bell Let’s Talk Day just around the corner, we’ve put together a list of some tangible ways companies can take action to better support its employees’ mental health and wellness.

Speak candidly about mental health.
The first step to beating the stigma is to stop treating mental illness as taboo. Talking about it openly and without shame will help others realize they are not alone.

Keep the conversation going.
Workplace culture must be nurtured, which means you can’t just mention mental health once and expect it to catch on. Find multiple opportunities to incorporate the subject into the workplace.

Encourage employees to take mental health days off.
Part of preventative health involves giving your mind and body a break now and then. Allowing your staff to miss work to recharge can help them stave off more serious health issues down the road.

Pay attention and be ready to help.
If you notice an employee behaving differently, don’t hesitate to ask them if everything is alright. Even if they tell you they’re okay, remind them that you’re there to help and that they have access to assistive resources.

Make sure the tools and resources are relevant and convenient.
No matter how much information you supply your employees, it will not do any good if it’s outdated or irrelevant. Frequently check in on your mental health resources to make sure they’re accurate, up-to-date, and contain practical advice that your employees can use to get better. 

Consider investing in technology as a means of support.
COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the way we look at our health through a digital-first lens. Managing a workforce means adopting digital changes beyond video conferencing, instead using data safely and securely to provide better insight into an employee’s mental health status and overall wellbeing. 

Achu Health™ is a Canadian health tech company that provides a comprehensive platform using their digital dashboard, mobile application and wearable devices to provide businesses with the insights they need on their workforce’s health without infringing on employee privacy. Achu is creating a layer of transparency on the wellness of organizations while ensuring employees are aware of exactly where the health data goes that they report and how it gets used.

Achu Health

Hop In is another Canadian company aiming to effect a meaningful change in people’s lives. While most have been ‘commuting’ to makeshift home offices, for some, business has remained as usual, with regular trips to the workplace. However, this leaves those stressed about contracting COVID-19. Hop In provides a safe and stress-free solution to the daily commute. They work directly with companies to provide private shuttles tailored to their commuting needs.

Prioritize confidentiality and anonymity.
Even though mental health may be normalized in your workplace, some people might still feel uncomfortable discussing it. Reassure your staff that their privacy is your top concern and that their use of mental health resources will never be monitored or tracked.

Creating a safe and healthy workplace is essential, and there is no better time than now for businesses to take action.

With that said, let’s start a conversation. We want to hear from you.

Let us know in the comments below if your employer has a valuable mental health program in place or what you would like to see them improve on.

If you require help with mental health issues, please contact your employee assistance program.

If you are in an emergency, in crisis or need someone to talk to, please contact one of the many resources available in your area.

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