Knowledge Transfer & Curriculum Development, Workplace Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association
Workplace wellness has been a hot topic with executives, human resources, and organizational leadership for the past few years. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has seen a growing understanding amongst employers that when workplaces encourage positive mental health and what experts call “psychological safety,” employees are more productive, bring new ideas forward, and are better at finding creative solutions to challenges.
In times of rapid change and crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, fostering a safe, supportive, and mentally-healthy work culture becomes even more pressing.
What is your organization doing to ensure your workplace is mentally healthy and psychologically safe? Now is the time take a closer look — it could make a big difference on disability claims, staff retention, and your organization’s overall ability to stay competitive going forward. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Workplace mental health by the numbers
Research by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace shows that 44% of all workers in Canada indicate they have or have had mental health issues.1 Not only does this affect employees, it affects the bottom line.
About 80% of employees struggling with their mental health indicate that it impacts their work.2 Some estimates have mental health problems and illnesses coming in at a cost of $51 billion per year to the Canadian economy, with $6.3 billion alone resulting from lost productivity.3 And this was before the pandemic hit.
The good news is, there is evidence showing that an investment in the mental health and wellness of employees does make significant impact—and ultimately shows a substantial return on investment in dollars, as well as on learning, collaboration, and growth.4, 5
How to support the mental health of your employees
Now, more than ever, you want to signal to your employees that they can be open about their struggles with mental health. Society has come a long way in terms of mental health, dispelling stigma, and discussing wellbeing — but there are still barriers to “getting real” about mental health at work; many people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labelled, while at the same time managers say they want to support the mental health of employees but many don’t feel they having the training they need to do so.6, 7
“What’s really important to take away in the face of the current environment around COVID-19 is that ‘it’s okay to not be okay.’ We’re in this together. We can and should be making space to share how we’re really feeling,” says Jordan Friesen, Director of Workplace Mental Health at CMHA.
To do that, we’ll need to get comfortable supporting each other and to explore ways we can build skills to support psychological health and safety. Since 2013, CMHA has offered its flagship workplace mental health program, called Not Myself Today, to over 800 employers shift their culture to one that better supports and protects mental health.
Talking mental health at the office can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these five simple approaches in mind and you’ll be on your way to supporting your employees:
Learn the basics.
Understand what mental health is (and is not) to break stigma. This can help you support your own mental health, and the mental health of your friends, family and colleagues. Not sure how? Visit CMHA to learn more.
Work with emotions.
We all experience a range of moods and emotions; it’s part of being human. By becoming aware of how we feel and accepting it, we can get better at managing our moods and responding to situations in ways that help us move forward more positively. Knowing and saying what we feel can improve relationships.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life and helps us to take action when we need to, but it can cause mental health problems when it gets to be too much. By learning to identify when our stress is getting to be unhealthy and practicing skills that build our resilience, we are better able to manage stress and bounce back when difficult things happen. Check out CMHA’s Stress Index to find out more.
The environment we find ourselves in can have a huge impact on our sense of well-being and mental health. By taking action to set the conditions for a positive, safe, and supportive work culture, each one of us supports the mental health of ourselves and each other. Learn more from Not Myself Today clients.
Talking about mental health can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s something we can learn. Through building our skill, and with practise, we build our comfort level in having difficult conversations — and then we’re better equipped to support ourselves and others. It’s time to #GetReal about how you feel.
5. Edmondson, Amy C. (2019). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Hoboken, New Jersey, Wiley & Sons Inc.
6. Mental Health Commission Canada
7. Ipsos Reid. (2012). Emotional Intelligence at Work.