The importance of mental health in the workplace

Workplaces can play an essential part in maintaining good mental health. They can allow people to feel productive and be a vital contributor to employee wellbeing.

Yet it can also be a stressful environment contributing to the rise of mental health problems amongst employees. No workplace is immune from these risks, but we can help ensure that the workplace is a safe space to talk about mental health issues.

According to World Health Organization, more than half the world’s population is working, and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder. Without adequate support, mental disorders and other mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work and capacity to work productively.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, about 30% of disability claims in Canada are attributed to mental health problems and illnesses. The total cost of mental health problems to the Canadian economy exceeds $50 billion annually. Currently, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem or mental illness each year.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual can cope with everyday stressors, work productively, reach their full potential and contribute to their community.

Mental, physical and social well-being are essential components of overall health. It’s also important to point out that mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has health, and at some point, most people will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being. You can have poor mental health without having a mental illness, and likewise, you can have good mental health with a mental illness.

Promoting mental health within your organization

In today’s world, employee mental health must be a top priority for organizations looking to hire high-performing employees.

Positive mental health helps teams remain agile when changing roles and responsibilities. Not to mention facing complex challenges. It allows employees to flourish, manage stress and boost resilience. Ultimately, it will enable everyone to reach their potential.

As workplace stress continues to drain employees of their energy, organizations are experiencing a strain of their own. With mental health-related short-term disability rates continuing to rise, Canadian organizations are spending billions on payroll costs, talent management expenses and lost productivity.

According to Dialogue, companies can expect a five-time return on investment from avoiding disability leave through preventative action. By investing $5 per employee every month, organizations can expect to save $31 per employee per month.

Employers are responsible for creating a culture that supports mental and physical employee health. Mental health programs can help create psychologically healthy workplaces, which will make for better overall morale in the workplace, higher levels of employee satisfaction, higher retention rates and more attractive recruitment positioning.

Five ways to promote mental health in the workplace

Here are five practices that organizations and businesses can implement to promote good mental health in the workplace:

  1. Support employee participation and decision-making
    When you let employees help with decisions, it shows that you trust them. Even if you only let employees give input to assist you in making the final decision, you still show that you value their opinions.
  2. Define employees’ duties and responsibilities
    Defining duties and responsibilities helps find the right person for the job and improves an employee’s experience and job satisfaction.
  3. Promote work-life balance
    Maintaining a work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace.
  4. Encourage and model respectful behaviours
    Listening to what everyone has to say, paying attention to nonverbal communication and recognizing the strengths and accomplishments of others are ways to encourage and model respectful behaviour in the workplace.
  5. Manage workloads
    Workload management is critical because it protects a team and organization from burnout. This means that your team members can keep up with the workload.

Creating opportunities for employees to build connections with each other, such as through social events, message boards and affinity groups, are also great ways to promote mental health in the workplace.

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