Mental health in the workplace may seem like another buzzword topic - but many employers ignore it at their peril. Fostering a psychologically health 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.
In their first article of the series, the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services' (WSPS) Organizational Health Team will guide us through what it means to invest in your employees' mental health - and give us a glimpse inside the 13 factors of psychological health and safety in the workplace.
We spoke to Danielle Stewart, lead consultant on Workplace Safety & Prevention Services' (WSPS) Organizational Health Team, on how having a workplace mental health program will positively impact your organizational efficiency.
"Research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers has shown an average of 230% return on every dollar invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace," she told HRD. "So, there's a rather strong business case to be made here, specifically in regards to recruitment and retention."
Danielle explained to us 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 the website ThinkMentalHealth.ca has been developed by Ontario's health and safety system partners, to provide informative and actionable mental health resources. The goal is to assist Ontario's employers in creating a psychologically healthy workplace.
This site provides access to reputable and tested tools, models and frameworks. The tools found on this site have been reviewed to ensure they provide sound and practical advice for reducing stigma and managing mental health hazards in your workplace.
"When you talk about the business case for creating a mentally healthy culture, you have to talk about cost," she continued. "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 rapidly become a main cause of disability."
A common term in this conversation is presenteeism. As defined by Canadian Mental Health Association: "Presenteeism is the action of employees coming to work despite having a sickness that justifies an absence and as a consequence, they are performing their work under sub-optimal conditions."
A psychologically safe workplace leads to more productive staff and diminishes rates of presenteeism. Danielle explained that studies have shown that presenteeism levels register from two to five times higher than absenteeism levels. It's a source of concern for leaders because, whilst absenteeism may be more physical, as in you can see an empty office seat, presenteeism is less visible and potentially more harmful.
In order to prevent employers from going down the path of having to assess presenteeism and absenteeism rates, Canadian workplaces should be adopting a prevention strategy. Canada's leading practice strategy is the CSA/BNQ National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This framework is centered around 13+ workplace factors - ways to help workplaces address the potential for 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, in order to fight back against the possibility of harm or injury, 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," explained 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. However, 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."
The world of work is evolving around us. It's no longer strictly a physical effort that's needed, it's often cognitive - and as such it takes a toll on the human mind and emotions.
"We simply cannot separate life from work anymore - they're both one in the same," added Danielle. "We take our private lives in to the office and we take work home at the end of the day. Therefore, the way we see work, and our perceptions around it, have to change as well."
How WSPS can help
Join us next month for our upcoming feature on what exactly these 13 factors entail, and how you can implement them into your organization with ease.
For more information and resources to help build a healthy workplace, please visit www.thinkmentalhealth.ca or www.wsps.ca/mentalhealth.