Mental health in the workplace may seem like another buzzword topic, but many employers ignore it at their peril. "Fostering a psychologically healthy and safe workplace should be an organizational priority, not just because it's ethically the right thing to do, but because it's an investment well spent," says Danielle Stewart, a Workplace Mental Health Consultant at WSPS.
Danielle explains that helping organizations foster and maintain a psychologically safe and healthy workplace is a strategic initiative for Ontario's health and safety system. To support this initiative, Ontario's health and safety system partners developed the website ThinkMentalHealth.ca
This site provides access to reputable and tested tools, models and frameworks. All tools have been reviewed to ensure they provide sound and practical advice for reducing stigma and managing mental health hazards in the workplace.
"When you talk about the business case for creating a mentally healthy culture, you have to talk about cost," says Danielle. "Doing nothing is costly. When we don't consider our mental health, benefit premiums often sky rocket - mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are becoming a main cause of disability."
A psychologically safe workplace leads to more productive staff and reduces presenteeism - when employees come to work when they are not at their best and, as a consequence, are performing under sub-optimal conditions. It's a source of concern for leaders because presenteeism is less visible than absenteeism and potentially more harmful.
Canada's leading prevention strategy is CSA/BNQ National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This framework centres on 13+ workplace factors - ways to help workplaces reduce the risk of mental harm or injury:
- organizational culture
- psychological support
- clear leadership and expectations
- civility and respect
- psychological demands
- growth and development
- recognition and reward
- involvement and influence
- workload management
- psychological protection
- protection of physical safety
So, what steps should leaders take to ensure their workplaces foster a culture of employee health, safety and well-being?
"There's no easy fix. It really takes time," explains Danielle. "You need to understand the facts and the myths, both from your leaders' perspective and from employees themselves. This sort of seismic culture shift needs to emanate from the top down. It also has to be reflected in the way we interact with our peers, such as not jumping to conclusions and not making assumptions about the way in which other people work."
How WSPS can help
Start building a mentally healthier and more productive workplace by accessing information and resources at thinkmentalhealth.ca and wsps.ca/mentalhealth.