Mental health in the workplace: It’s time to stop glorifying non-stop hustle 

The #SundayScaries might be a trending hashtag across social media come the end of the weekend, but mental health issues in the workplace shouldn’t be written off as another trending topic! These issues are real and getting worse as work-life balance becomes a thing of the past for many. Precarious and contract work impacts employee feelings of job stability and promotes a pressure to work harder and longer at all costs.

And what makes this worse, is the fact that many companies are preaching work-life balance, yet for “economic reasons” they are not delivering. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 70% of Canadians are concerned with the psychological health and safety of their workplace and 14% don’t think where they work is healthy or safe at all.

Companies that don’t meet the grade end up costing everyone in the long run. According to numbers from the Government of Canada, the total cost of mental health problems and mental illnesses in the country is $50 billion per year! In fact, in 2016, the World Health Organization reported that if treatment wasn’t scaled up, there would be 12 billion lost workdays due to depression and anxiety disorders by 2030.  

About 30% of short and long-term disability claims in Canada are being attributed to mental health problems and illnesses — with 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or mental illness each year. The fact that employees often feel a stigma about voicing mental health concerns in the office, is not new information, yet the issue persists. In 2018, a survey was conducted by Morneau Shepell, which found that 71% of workers still have concerns about workplace stigma regarding mental health.

In many cases, we are still fighting the stigma that mental health is something that an employee might be going through but can’t be seen like a broken leg or a bad case of the common cold. Canada’s largest mental health hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, is also Canada’s largest army battling in this issue, and they’ve recently called out again for change. They want to change the way we think about mental health, currently by spreading awareness that mental health is (who guessed it?) health! The “Mental Health is Health” campaign was recently backed by their #DifferenceMakers Symposium and is continuing to gain traction on all social media outlets, namely Twitter.

The Government of Canada is also keen to make sure mental health gets the attention that it deserves! They are confident that by applying a focus on mental wellbeing, organizations will reap the benefits of a workforce that feels supported, thereby maximizing their motivation to succeed. They suggest organizations apply these eight key practices to set the foundation for a supported and successful workforce:

  1. Encourage employee participation and decision-making
  2. Clearly define employees’ duties and responsibilities
  3. Promote work-life balance
  4. Encourage and model respectful behaviours
  5. Manage workloads
  6. Provide training and learning opportunities
  7. Have conflict resolution practices in place
  8. Recognize employees’ contributions effectively

The benefits of a psychologically healthy workplace can be broken down from its mere success. The Government of Canada shares that it’s proven to result in employees with higher engagement, morale, satisfaction, retention, and recruitment and productivity, as well as a reduction in absenteeism, grievances, health costs, medical leave/disability and workplace injuries.

How can workplaces become beacons for improved mental health, while also continuing to stay competitive, improve share price and boost revenue? Here are a few simple steps that workplaces can take to change the conversations around mental health in their office. Let’s change the tone!

  1. Write a policy. Create a definition of what your company’s mental health policy will include and create a draft. Then start working with a mental health expert and legal team to make sure the policy is as inclusive as possible.
  2. Change comes from the top down. If managers support mental wellness initiatives it makes it easier for employees to do so as well, and they will feel more supported doing it. Create an environment where managers can learn about mental health practices so they feel empowered.
  3. Poll employees and listen to the results. Do an anonymous survey of the mental well-being of your staff and solicit suggestions for improving the workplace and then listen to the results without judgment and implement them where possible.

Wherever you are in your career, there are changes you can make to better the way mental health is viewed at your workplace. Start making these changes by getting the conversation going and ensuring no one is made to feel like their mental well-being isn’t important.

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