Did you know that every week more than 500,000 Canadians are unable to go to work due to mental health problems?

Deadlines, unmanageable workloads, and working with challenging personalities are just a few of the everyday obstacles employees face. Add financial worries and lack of time to the mix and Iife can become overwhelming. When these stressors increase and our ability to deal with them falters, our mental health in the workplace can suffer.

As more conversations begin to start, the topic of mental health is finally coming out of the shadows. National awareness campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk Day every January 30th, May’s Mental Health Week, October’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and World Mental Health Day are helping to shine a light on the prevalence of mental health issues in our workplaces.

Businesses pay the price

Working in the people management arena as the CRO of Rise People, I’m keenly aware of the impact mental health problems have on employees and employers alike. On the employer side, employees’ mental health issues can take a heavy financial toll on the organization.

A Conference Board of Canada 2016 report found depression costs our economy $32.3 billion annually, while anxiety costs another $17.3 billion each year. Globally, there are similar results. The World Health Organization reports lost productivity due to depression and anxiety comes at an annual cost of $1 trillion.

Quick facts on workplace mental health

  • Mental illness is one of the top three drivers for 80% of short- and long-term disability claims
  • Nearly a quarter of Canadians living with mental health issues are unable to work
  • Lost productivity due to depression and pain is roughly three times greater than lost productivity due to other reasons

The role of stress in mental illness

Stress results in poor physical and mental health outcomes for many Canadians. On the employment front, we face unrelenting workloads, automation and other job insecurities, long hours, low pay, and never-ending deadlines—all factors that exacerbate our stress levels.

Quick facts on the negative outcomes of stress

So, if stress is the lynchpin for so many mental health issues, what’s the solution?

Tamp down stress, ramp up wellness

The Wellness Council of America notes that reducing workplace stress promotes a strong company culture, reduces sick days, and boosts talent acquisition and retention. Indeed, by supporting employees’ mental wellbeing through workplace wellness programs, benefits are felt across the organization:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Reduced presenteeism and absenteeism
  • Decreased disability coverage costs
  • Increased productivity and growth
  • Reduced risk of workplace accidents and injuries
  • Higher employee morale

Sharing the benefits of sound mental health

Many leading organizations are incorporating mental health initiatives into their benefits programs, with a focus on stress management. Where should your organization start? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – look at what others are doing and build your plan accordingly.

Consider these points to improve the mental health component of your employee wellness program:

  • Flexible work arrangements: Do we provide options to fit personal needs?
  • Open door, relaxed work environment: Are our managers adept at two-way communication and feedback?
  • Professional growth: How are we doing with opportunities to increase work-related responsibilities and learning?

I’d like to also share the following short e-book to give you a more in-depth understanding of how raising the visibility of mental health and wellness in the workplace can create a healthy environment in which your people can thrive: How to Improve Mental Health in Your Workplace

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