by Heidi Riley
Nurturing a supportive and mentally healthy work environment is an important consideration for employers, employees, and organizations.
Charlie Marr, Community Educator, Canadian Mental Health Association-PEI Division, shared some strategies and best practices to ensure the well-being of everyone in the workplace.
The effects of poor mental health costs Canadian businesses about $50 billion each year, with $6.3 billion of that in lost productivity costs.
As well as affecting businesses’ bottom lines, he explains that we need to focus on mental health in the workplace because there are occupational health regulations, human rights legislation, and a national standard for psychological health and well-being in place to ensure a mentally safe workplace.
“Moreover, it is just the right thing to do,” says Charlie. “You would not want a workplace where people’s physical health was contravened in any way, and that is also true for psychological health and well-being.”
The impact of mental health
Charlie shared some sobering statistics. “One in five Canadians this year will experience a mental health condition, which can be a period of depression or anxiety. Also, by the age of 40, half of Canadians will be touched by a diagnosable, clinical mental illness, either directly or with a family member or close contact.
“Post-pandemic, people’s levels of anxiety and depression went through the roof. Mental Health Research Canada has found that the number of Canadians who report experiencing notable levels of anxiety went from seven percent before the pandemic to 28 percent during the pandemic. The number now has dropped to about 10 percent.
“There is a reason we are not feeling as mentally well as we did prior to the pandemic. We are a population under pressure. We take that pressure home and into the workplace.
“There is a culture of stigma associated with mental health. Individuals reported that they were three times less likely to share a mental health condition with their employer than a physical health condition. In the workplace, burnout is reported by 25 percent of working-age Canadians.”
What do employees need to feel well at work?
Charlie shared some strategies and best practices to ensure the well-being of everyone in the workplace. He listed the following needs for a healthy workplace, as determined by the Canadian Mental Health Association and government and academic studies:
- Recognition for a job well done can decrease the level of burnout among employees
- Strength-based feedback, not sugar-coated comments to make someone feel better
- Clarity around the goals set in terms of work required
- Autonomy within the role of the employee
- Work/life balance and a recognition of people’s responsibilities outside the job
- Formal support – knowing who to speak to when an employee has a problem in the workplace
- Informal support – peer-related support
- A meaningful work role
“Meeting these needs helps retain workers within the workplace.”
Workers need to feel that it is ok to speak up, make a mistake or a suggestion, ask a question, or experience failure as a team without negative or damaging consequences. “Not feeling safe to speak up does not lend itself to taking risks and getting things done.
“Why are some teams more effective than others? Harvard University found that relations between the leaders and the members of the team was the determining factor. Teams that felt a sense of psychological safety were most successful.”
Tools for business leaders to sustain mental health in the workplace
- Implement workplace mental health strategies and programs. The results are a good return on investment.
- CIC Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace is a national standard which helps determine psychological well-being within an organization.
- CCOHS Healthy Minds at Work has tools for individuals and leaders to evaluate their own psychological presence and their impact on others.
Individual responsibility for well-being
Physical, mental, emotional, relational, recreational, environmental, spiritual, and financial issues can affect mental well-being.
Ask yourself about relationships in and outside the workplace. Do you share your feelings with the people around you? Who are the people in your life you can turn to?
Do you take time to reflect on your feelings? If not, symptoms of anxiety and depression can result.
How do you feel about the environment around you? How can you improve it?
“If you pay attention to those areas, your window of tolerance widens, and your functionality will go up. These are things that organizations can consider in order to boost employee well-being. It is all about self-care and taking action.
“The same studies we cited earlier say that 82 percent of Canadians are moderately happy or happy, 84 percent have good relationships, 76 percent have people they can count on, and two thirds of people know where to go to get help they need.
“Those statistics tell me that we are resilient and can bounce back. When we act, good things happen to ourselves and to the people around us.”
To find out more about boosting your own self-awareness, look for Feeling Good by Dr. David Burnes.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about Canadian Mental Health Association-PEI Division, visit www.pei.cmha.ca