@Work | Trends

Starting today, make your employees’ mental health a priority 

Happy workers make for a happier workplace. To ensure a psychologically safe and healthy environment, employers need to put tools in place that work. 

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Group people working in a positive office environmentOnly 23 per cent of employees are comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue, says a 2016 report by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Mental-health problems and illnesses of working Canadian adults cost employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity in 2011. Yet, only 23 per cent of employees are comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue, says a 2016 report by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) launched the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace in 2013. Since then, many of the country’s largest employers, including Bell Canada—which hosts the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day—have adopted it. To further psychological safety in your own organization, here are some ways you can start the dialogue with your employees.

ACCESS THE RIGHT RESOURCES

Don’t know where to start? The MHCC has a comprehensive guide for implementation of the Standard available online, which includes information on initial planning to putting that plan into action. A practical section is part of each chapter in addition to FAQs, checklists, tools, references and more.

The CCOHS-developed Healthy Minds@Work also has a wealth of resources, including fact sheets and posters that can be shared with employees. 

BUILD A CULTURE OF TRUST

From peers to those in leadership positions—everyone needs to buy-in to help build an environment where employees can be open and learn from each other. [See Are you guilty of masking your emotions in the workplace?]

“Attachment research tells us when we feel connected to our colleagues we feel vulnerable and safe and we will take more risks and share difficult situations,” says Megan Rafuse, a clinical therapist and founder of Shift Collab.

TRAIN EMPLOYEES 

As a facilitator of corporate workshops meant to improve employee productivity and engagement, Alyusha Maharaj, a performance and success coach, master wellness facilitator and and associate with Interpersonal Wellness Services. Inc., believes ongoing learning within an organization should extend to developing emotional intelligence as well.

“There are a lot of learning mechanisms and systems to help strengthen emotional aptitude,” she says. “It could be looking at different ways of problem solving, so people know how to deal with them more effectively and in a way that reduces the emotional impact and increases their confidence handling difficult situations in the future.”

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or a mid-level manager. “Leading by example is important,” says Maharaj. “How we treat ourselves is how we tend to treat others so that self-awareness and personal learning, and learning from others, starts with yourself.”

MAKE IT MEASURABLE

By formalizing emotional intelligence in the workplace it builds a culture where it is applicable to everyone and isn’t just something arbitrary, says Maharaj. “Work it into a performance evaluation,” she advises. “It can be a success/performance factor or a measure of teamwork and collaboration.”