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Fostering Mental Health in the Workplace

mental health

When the calendar page turned to January 1st, 2021 we all hoped that we could kiss the fears & anxieties of 2020 goodbye. While there are hope and optimism on the horizon by way of vaccines and an impending change in leadership to our neighbors to the south, as a society our mental health is still being challenged.

Mental health issues are more common than many may realize. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, by age 40, about 50 percent of the Canadian population will have or have had a mental illness. Throw in a global pandemic, and it’s no surprise that anxiety, depression, and insomnia are being reported at higher levels.

Since the mental well-being of employees can impact their ability to contribute in the workplace, it’s imperative that employers take steps to help their employees—and the productivity of their organizations.

COVID-19’s Impact on our Mental Well-Being

A study conducted by Teladoc Health found that 50 percent of Canadian employees said their mental health had been negatively impacted by the coronavirus. In addition, a University of Sherbrooke study found that 26 percent of Canadians have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder due to the pandemic.

With the pandemic taking its toll on the mental well-being of workers across the globe and country, it’s important for organizations to act. The good news is that 39 percent of employers have added resources, waived fees, and/or opened dialogue around workplace mental health since the pandemic began. The not-so-good news is that 60 percent of employees who have the ability to access resources don’t, according to a recent survey by Morneau Shepell Ltd.

The resistance employees have toward the utilization of mental health resources could be for a number of reasons, including:

  • Believing the offered benefits are inadequate in servicing their needs
  • The fear that utilizing the benefits would hurt their careers due to the stigma surrounding mental health
  • The lack of communication or awareness regarding the benefits available

Nurturing your Employees

Employees can only be their best when they feel their best. And when an employee is suffering mentally, their work tends to suffer, too. HR and management can support employees by:

  • Offering and encouraging the use of mental health resources and including them in health insurance plans
  • Fostering psychologically safe and inclusive workplaces by offering employee education programs to learn more about the signs of mental health issues
  • Developing manager training courses to learn the signs of mental health issues within their employees and encouraging early intervention
  • Having managers consistently assess workloads to ensure employees are working under reasonable circumstances and expectations

By implementing these practices into the workplace, employers can start to see the benefits of improved mental well-being among employees, including:

  • Less missed time, reducing costs for employers
  • Reduced presenteeism
  • Increased employee productivity and engagement
  • Retainment of strong talent, which can lead to improved workplace culture and recruiting efforts

Accessing Mental Health Care During the Pandemic

As is consistent with many industries these days, many health resources have made the switch to virtual, which has allowed for faster and more effective care. According to a survey by RBC Insurance, two-thirds of working Canadians are open to utilizing virtual tools like videoconferencing for their health.

Mental health is fluid and ongoing, meaning any efforts put forth by organizations should be flexible and ever-evolving. HR and management should work to consistently address the needs of employees in the workplace. Conduct check-ins and request feedback on current offerings to prioritize improvement.

For more information on mental health and mental health resources, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association NL.