May 6th, 2019

// Mental health issues in the workplace. What employers can do to support better balance.

Mental health issues in the workplace. What employers can do to support better balance.

Mental health affects all of us, and it’s not something that can just be ‘shut off’ when we go to work.  Personal problems can affect how we perform at the office, and, when the day ends, workplace stress can follow us into our home lives, affecting our quality of life.

Seven in 10 Canadians report that their work experience affects their mental health, while roughly eight in 10 (78%) say their primary reason for missing work is related to mental health. Additional research found that 500,000 Canadians are unable to work each week due to mental health problems or illnesses. Workplace wellness is no longer just focused on physical health. Employers are recognizing the continuum of employees’ physical and mental health and reacting accordingly – offering more mental health resources and supports, and constantly adapting as employee requirements evolve.  And employees are keen to see more mental wellness resources in the workplace. Nearly three-quarters of employees say they want their managers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace. GoodLife Fitness workplace wellness consultant Linda Lewis-Daly says there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to workplace mental health supports but encouraging open communication and offering customizable supports can go a long way to helping employees find help when they need it.  Lewis-Daly suggests these tips for employers looking to build more mental health supports into their workplace wellness programs:  Put your commitment in writing. A mental wellness policy outlines the organizational outlook on mental health and how it plans to take action to support employees. Lead by example. Leaders can encourage open dialogue by sharing their personal stories and demonstrating their own commitment to mental and physical wellness.   Invite employee input. Gather input and suggestions from employees then provide regular opportunities for feedback and measurement. Address stigma. Employees are often handling their day-to-day tasks while trying to hide their symptoms. Opening up more dialogue around mental health issues is the only way to address stigma and normalize mental health conditions. Encourage resilience. Many people are reluctant to admit they’re experiencing mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Instead of spotlighting the problems, reframe mental health in a more positive light and show employees what to do. For example, GoodLife Fitness created a Plan for Resilience workbook with resources and strategies to help employees bounce back after a potential health, personal or work crisis.  Open lines of communication. Offer training and tools to help managers understand how to recognize mental health conditions and handle different types of situations. Lewis-Daly cites the Do you know what to do? guide she helped develop for GoodLife managers with specific conversation starters to kick off important discussions with employees facing mental health challenges. Above all, managers need to be available and accessible to offer help.   Offer accessible learning tools. Online learning modules or at-work seminars can address the basics of mental health, how to recognize someone who is facing a mental health issue, or what to do if you or someone else in your workplace need help.  Lewis-Daly is available to talk more about the evolving nature of workplace wellness programs and how employers can take steps to introduce mental wellness supports within their workplaces. Please let me know if you’d be interested in connecting with her for an interview.   


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