What employers can do to make the workplace safer for psychological well-being
By Anna Bolton, Special to Danatec
May 6-12 is the 68th annual Mental Health Week in Canada, and workplaces are taking action. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) wants us to #GetLoud about what mental health really is.
“It’s about having a sense of purpose, strong relationships, feeling connected to our communities, knowing who we are, coping with stress, and enjoying life,” advises the CMHA.
Work is central to wellbeing because our mental health depends on whether we feel connected, supported, respected, and fulfilled, both in our personal life and at work.
But work can place a major strain on mental health, as we’ll explain in this article. And for many Canadians, the strain is taking a toll.
The Impact of Mental Health Issues on the Workplace
Research from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) shows that 47% of working Canadians consider work to be the most stressful part of their daily lives. According to Statistics Canada, employees are three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode if their work is too stressful.
And the costs are high.
Psychological health problems and illnesses are the number one cause of disability in Canada, costing the economy ~$51 billion per year (MHCC).
The prevalence? One in five Canadians will report issues with mental health in any given year. Mid-career workers are affected by mental health issues most often, and these employees are critical to the productivity of organizations (MHCC).
But employees may not raise their hands when they need help. According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, only 23% of Canadian workers would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue. The stigma around mental health is still prevalent.
So, how can we build support for mental health in the workplace?
First, let’s look at what makes workplaces psychologically unsafe.
Risk Factors for Employee Mental Health Issues
According to Canadian government guidelines, employees are at risk for mental health issues stemming from the job when:
- A role is demanding but doesn’t give the employee enough control
- Work requires a high degree of effort with too little reward and recognition
- Employees are rewarded or promoted unfairly, based on favouritism rather than merit
- Workloads are excessive and unrealistic
- The work is unfulfilling and doesn’t make use of the employee’s skills
- Employers make little effort to engage employees or solicit their influence
- There are inadequate opportunities for professional development
- Employers don’t do enough to make the physical work environment more comfortable
- Employees experience physical violence at work — either from other employees, customers, clients, or the communities they serve
- Authorities abuse power
- Discrimination takes place
- Sexual and other forms of harassment take place
- There is a lack of workplace accommodation or flexibility
It’s often not just one thing that makes a workplace psychologically unsafe. And that means, there’s never a single solution.
Creating Workplaces that Support Mental Health
Healthy workplaces are created when supports are built into policies, culture, and programs, including training.
In fact, the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR) require employers to actively protect employees from mental health risks.
Strategies for supporting mental health at work include:
- Developing policies and creating committees to support workplace psychological health
- Giving employees access to mental health information, training, peer networks, and professional counselling
- Assessing and monitoring workplace culture
- Creating an environment where employees feel safe to report when issues arise Organizing stress-reduction, employee engagement, recognition and team building programs at work
- Making flexible work arrangements and accommodations available
“It’s empowering to realize that every employee can contribute to overall psychological wellbeing in the workplace, not just the executive,” says Dr. Yasmeen, Krameddine, Ph.D. and Director fo Research and Development for ProTraining. “One small step to increasing a co-worker’s sense of connection and support could be to say hello in the hallway or reach out to them if you hear they’re having a bad day. Small gestures can go a long way to create a positive environment.”
What is your organization doing year-round to support mental health? Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter as we #GetLoud about mental health awareness. During this important week, we’ll be talking about the ways safety training supports psychological well-being at work.
If your organization needs in-person or online mental health training for employees, Danatec can help. Contact us to learn more about solutions for psychological safety and resilience in the workplace — including custom training services. For Police & Security De-escalation & Mental Health Training, visit protraining.com.