How to Address and Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Take the time to address any issues that your employees are facing so that they can be empowered to reach their greatest potential, and so your business can too.

Mental health is the number one reason behind disability claims in Canada, impacting productivity in every line of business, as well as the lives of workers and their families. It is critical that every employer and employee put in effort to ensure that their working environment supports positive mental health. The benefits are well worth it, and there are many simple measures and strategies that can be put in place without significant cost to an organization.

 

Know what to look for

Psychosocial Risk (PSR) factors are the hazards that have the potential to damage an employee’s mental well-being. Mitigating and eliminating these risks will protect your company from financial loss, and ensure the safety of your workers. Studies have determined 13 PSRs that can affect your business.

PSR: Psychological Support
Mental health should not be taboo. Individuals that feel welcome to seek support from their supervisors and co-workers show an increased sense of attachment to their jobs. Making it clear that your business is dedicated to supporting mental health will have a positive effect on the mood and behaviour of employees.

PSR: Organizational Culture
What is the character of your business? When employees can safely assume that their organization is trustworthy, honest and fair, they will exude positive behaviour of their own. Individuals that felt their company valued these traits reported greater job satisfaction and commitment. This leads to better employee retention and attracts new employees.

PSR: Clear Leadership & Expectations
Employees are less frustrated when they trust their management. You can avoid conflicts with your employees by ensuring they are given clear guidance on their role and how they fit in the company. Keeping them aware of organizational changes will also breed trust and reduce stress. A good leader will also lead by example, by embodying the traits and behaviours they wish to see in their employees.

PSR: Civility & Respect
Avoid friction between employees, and with clients or the public, by fostering a respectful attitude in your organization. When individuals are considerate to each other in your business, they maintain a sense of dignity, which keeps spirits high and turnover rates low.

PSR: Psychological Competencies & Requirements
You wouldn’t ask a fish to climb a tree, would you? Ensuring that you are matching the right person to the right job is important to keeping your employees unstressed and as productive as they can be. When an individual feels that they are the right fit for a job, they are more satisfied and the company can maximize their potential.

PSR: Growth & Development
When employees feel they have the potential to advance in both their work and personal lives, they are more committed to long term company goals. If they are encouraged to develop new skills, they can increase their worth to the business, as well as their own sense of value.

PSR: Recognition & Reward
Positive reinforcement is one of the greatest motivators for success. Rewards do not always have to be financial, either. Simply making the effort to recognize when an employee has reached a milestone, or performed in an exemplary manner, will improve their dedication to the business. Individuals will put in greater effort when they know their efforts are appreciated.

PSR: Involvement & Influence
Employees with a sense of ownership in their company are less likely to be indifferent in their work. Ensuring that people in your organization feel their voice can be heard will boost engagement and morale. It is also a great way to make sure no important feedback is missed when it comes to making big decisions or changes for your business.

PSR: Workload Management
This is often reported as the biggest cause of stress in the workplace. Ensuring that your employees have the appropriate time and resources to accomplish their tasks will prevent fatigue, psychological strain, and job burnout. When employees are given reasonable expectations, it also ensures that deadlines are met, preventing the company from failure and potential loss.

PSR: Engagement
Employees do not like to feel underutilized. Whether it is in a physical, emotional, or mental way, individuals that feel connected to their work are more passionately motivated to perform. Reduce counterproductive behaviours by keeping employees focused and engaged on the company goals.

PSR: Balance
A healthy work-life balance prevents problems that arise in either time from affecting the other. Employees granted a reasonable amount of flexibility in the workplace are better able to concentrate and focus on being productive. When the balance is off, employees often resist change or avoid progressing in their position.

PSR: Psychological Protection
Employees should feel safe from negative consequences when reporting issues, submitting ideas, asking questions, or giving feedback. When they feel protected, they will perform better in team-based projects and become more involved in the business, as well as feeling an increased sense of value for their contributions.

PSR: Protection of Physical Safety
Regular exposure to dangerous situations will cause anxiety and stress. Ensuring that policies and safeguards are in place to keep your employees safe from harm will allow them to work comfortably and more effectively in the workplace.

 

Start assessing the risk in your workplace

An ongoing plan to identify and assess psychosocial hazards is key to knowing what you are working with. It is important to understand what factors are, or could be, leading to mental health issues with your workers in order to address them. A few of the ways you can discover potential hazards include:

- health and safety committee reports, minutes and/or recommendations
- workplace health/well-being committee reports, minutes and/or recommendations
- incident investigations
- absenteeism, short- and long-term disability claim data

 

Create a safe reporting system

Just as with physical hazards, always ensure your employees know the best way to report their mental health concerns. Additionally, avoid a company culture that stigmatizes mental health. Often, employees will hide their struggles and it is not until they begin to experience more severe symptoms that they will seek help. Some reporting options include:

- employee surveys such as perception surveys, employee engagement surveys
- worker concerns and complaints during workplace inspections or other times
- worker exit interviews

Be sure to keep employee feedback anonymous and confidential.

 

Develop a Comprehensive Workplace Health and Safety (CWHS) Program

In addition to including mental health in your Health and Safety Mandate, consider creating a CWHS Program for your company. This program is a series of strategies, activities and policies developed by the employer, in consultation with employees, to tie together 4 key areas:

- Occupational health and safety (the physical work environment)
- Psychosocial work environment (organizational culture and the organization of work)
- Workplace health promotion (wellness)
- Organizational community involvement

 

Consider mental health effects whenever there are changes to the business

Just as important, when making updates to policies and procedures, be sure to reflect back on how it will impact the culture you have already created. Consider whether the effect of each change will be neutral, positive, or negative. Consult with employees that will be affected by the changes to get a better idea of the outcome.

 

The steps to supporting mental health in the workplace are simple, but failing to address it can lead to significant loss. Take the time to address any issues that your employees are facing so that they can be empowered to reach their greatest potential, and so your business can too.