Improving Mental Health in the Workplace
This week marks the 71st annual Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Week. The next seven days serve as a reminder to take time to look away from our computer screens and instead look inwards and outwards to check in on ourselves and those around us.
Acknowledging mental health and having candid discussions is more important now than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented increase in mental health conditions, including a 25% increase in anxiety and depression globally. Given that the average adult spends more time at work than anywhere else, it is imperative that workplaces foster safe spaces where mental well-being is prioritized, and psychological safety is promoted. Although many workplaces now recognize employee mental health as a priority, there is still room for growth, as 70% of Canadian employees report that they are concerned regarding their psychological health and safety at work.
So, what can workplaces do to better support employee mental health?
Make Mental Health a Priority
Workplaces can ensure mental well-being is top of mind by creating designated mental health leaders who partake in supplementary training and courses to gain the knowledge and skills to provide mental health support to their colleagues. In addition, workplaces can develop an internal mental health strategy that outlines clear guidelines to create psychologically safe workplaces. Lastly, organizations can develop budgets that have a line item for mental health training, resources, and support.
Enhance Mental Health Supports
To help prioritize the mental health needs of employees, organizations can make an active effort to provide tailored mental health resources and support for all workers. Support could include virtual, in-person, or hybrid offerings that consider the wants and needs of the individual. By providing flexible delivery of services, workplaces can minimize the barriers faced by employees when trying to access support.
Communicate Available Supports
Many employees are unaware of mental health programs and supports offered within their workplace. To meet the needs of their workers, organizations can clearly outline available mental health supports and ensure that they are widely communicated within the workplace.
Cultivate an Inclusive Culture
Organizations can create psychologically safe workplaces by fostering an environment where self-care, wellness initiatives, and education are the norm. In conjunction with this, workplaces can ensure that leaders receive coaching and support to better prepare them to navigate mental health at work and lead by example. Finally, whenever possible, organizations can enhance flexibility with scheduling and time off to help staff maintain a work-life balance.
Gather Feedback and Develop an Iterative Strategy
Lastly, workplaces can create a system to track mental health metrics, including employee surveys or claims. By gathering insights from each employee on improving their mental health in the workplace, an iterative process can be generated to improve mental well-being at work continuously.
Benefits of Improving Mental Health Within the Workplace
Although taking the leap to prioritize mental health within the workplace may seem like a daunting task, there are clear benefits to enhancing workplace mental health support both at the individual and organizational level. For example, employees who feel that their mental health is supported at work are 26% less likely to report symptoms associated with a mental health condition. Furthermore, when employees feel that mental health is a priority in the workplace, there are reduced absenteeism rates, higher reported rates of job satisfaction, increased trust within the company, and improved employee retention. These metrics demonstrate that putting measures in place to support mental health at work enhances the well-being of individuals and the overall health of organizations.
This week, we encourage you to take some time to sit with your thoughts, be vulnerable with yourself and others, and think about the changes you could make in your workplace to ensure mental health is openly discussed and actively supported.
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