A business case for investing in workplace mental health

Nov 22, 2019

A business case for investing in workplace mental healthFirst-of-its-kind research from Deloitte Canada quantifies the return on investment (ROI) for Canadian firms that invest in mental health programming. After just one year, says the study, the median annual ROI is $1.62 for every dollar invested. After three years, the ROI more than doubles to $2.18. "This research from a leading auditing and consulting firm supports the findings of Canada's mental health community that investing in workers mental well-being helps companies' bottom line," says Krista Schmid, WSPS Consultant, Workplace Mental Health.

The findings in Deloitte's ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business build a business case for investing in mental health programming. In fact, Deloitte is already applying the findings in its own workplaces: this fall the company increased its annual employee mental health benefits from $300 to $4,000 per person.

The research explores historical investment and savings data from seven large Canadian companies at various stages of rolling out mental health programs and supports. It also includes interviews with these seven business leaders and three others, including Air Canada, ATB Financial, Bell, Canada Life, CIBC, Desjardins Group, Enbridge Inc., Energir, Husky Energy, and Morneau Shepell.

7 key findings

Deloitte's research determined that

  1. Investing in mental health programs appears to mitigate the rising costs of doing nothing. Mental health issues account for 30-40% of short-term disability (STD) claims and 30% of long-term disability (LTD) claims in Canada. In fact, poor mental health in the workplace costs the Canadian economy $50 billion a year, the report notes. "It's increasingly clear that doing nothing is not an option for workplaces," says Krista.
  2. Few organizations have to start from scratch. Take a look at your existing initiatives, and gather baseline data. You may already have tools in place to support mental health. "Many companies, for instance, have employee assistance, return to work and wellness programs," says Krista. "But until you do your baseline data analysis, it might not be obvious and more importantly we may not be measuring our performance with the right lens."
  3. Include measurement in your program. It's a critical success factor, says the report. It advises workplaces to track key performance indicators, assess the effectiveness of interventions with employees, and regularly calculate ROI to see how well they are progressing. ROI in workplace mental health programs includes an ROI calculator.
  4. Programming can be phased in over time. Follow the framework in Canada's National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, says the report. But there’s no need to adopt it all at once. "Not everyone has the resources or the capacity to implement all of the standard," says Krista. "The standard allows organizations to use parts of it, and is a great source of helpful information and best practices."

The Deloitte report also noted that

  1. Employers can boost ROI by investing first in high-impact areas. These include leadership training and preventive interventions, such as employee and family assistance programs and psychological care benefits.
  2. You can weave psychological health and safety into the organizational fabric by integrating aspects of your workplace mental health program into your corporate policies and strategies.
  3. Companies that achieved greater returns had invested in activities that support employees along the entire mental health continuum, from treatment to promoting mental health and well-being.

How WSPS can help

Our team of workplace mental health consultants can work with you on:

  • conducting needs assessments based on workplace factors known to contribute to a mentally healthy workplace
  • implementing CSA Z1003 - Psychological health and safety in the workplace
  • raising awareness of workplace mental health and reducing stigma

WSPS also offers

For free online resources to guide workplaces in developing a psychologically healthy workplace, check out Thinkmentalhealth.ca.