The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace
Did you know that according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience mental health issues in any given year? That’s a solid 20 per cent of people living in our country, which is pretty significant.
Last month, the #BellLetsTalk campaign ran once again to raise awareness for mental health and to work towards ending the stigma surrounding these illnesses. This has been a hugely successful campaign over the past few years, and we thought that we would continue the conversation about the importance of mental health too. Just because January is over doesn’t mean we have to quit talking about it! Here we share some fast facts about mental health and some tips to make your office more mental-health friendly.
The Facts on Mental Health
As we saw from the opening statistic, mental illness actually affects a huge amount of people. Even though it is often something that people feel ashamed about or nervous to admit, most (if not all) people have had some kind of experience with mental illness in their lives, either directly or indirectly. There are many different types of mental illness and also varying degrees of severity within each category. According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, anxiety disorders are the most common amongst the population.
The MDSC also identifies some interesting statistics on the economic effect of mental illness on society, which is intriguing to note from a corporate standpoint. First, they say that $33 billion on average is lost in the economy every year due to mental illness in the workplace. That said, only 31 per cent of Canadian employers have plans to discuss mental health in the workplace. That is a huge disconnect!
Mental health is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to an overall lifestyle of wellness, and in order to have happy, productive employees, they need to be healthy too. So how can you become one of those 31 per cent ready to address the elephant in the room?
Mental Health in the Workplace
There are many ways that you can encourage a positive, welcoming environment in the workplace that is conducive to mental health and open to hearing about mental illness when it arises. Some of these techniques include the following:
- Have an open-door policy: If an employee doesn’t feel like they can talk to a manager or human resources professional regarding their mental health concerns, that’s a problem. Instill a culture with an open-door policy so that employees feel comfortable being honest with upper management. This includes being respectful when responding to someone’s struggle with mental illness and taking each concern seriously.
- Provide an environment conducive to a healthy work-life balance: Work-life balance is key when it comes to managing stress and preventing mental illness where you can. Have policies in place that encourage a healthy work-life balance, like strict limits on total hours worked per week, healthy vacation time allowances or the option for flexible work schedules.
- Provide access to resources: The right resources are important if an employee is experiencing mental illness. Make sure your human resources staff have access to these kinds of references (such as mental health programming, meditation guides, other wellness information, etc.…) and know how to connect staff with the appropriate health professionals when necessary.
- Have clear job descriptions and appropriate workloads: As previously hinted at, stress can have a huge impact on mental health, and our jobs are often a major source of stress. Have measures in place to reduce workplace stress as much as possible, such as having clear job descriptions for employees to know exactly what’s expected of them and manageable workloads for their expertise and time.
- Be inclusive: Foster a culture of inclusivity so that if someone does need to take a medical leave due to mental illness, they won’t feel like an outsider when they return to work. Include everyone in normal office activities and ask them what they need to have a healthy transition. Even if you’re afraid you won’t say the right thing, avoidance or silence are never the right answer.
- Make wellness a priority: By making overall wellness a clear priority in your company, the importance of mental health will follow as well. Put workplace wellness initiatives in place to promote wellness in every aspect. For example, outfitting your office with height-adjustable sit-stand desks, active seating solutions or active accessories are great ways to let your employees know that you take health seriously. Plus, integrating more movement into your day produces natural mood-lifters and de-stressors, giving employees a leg up on mental health to begin with!
It’s time to make a difference and end the stigma; change the way your organization addresses mental health in the workplace today!