Here’s why: Mental health is something we all have. It can be positive or negative (poor), and it can shift and change throughout our lives. Mental health is one aspect of overall health, and combines with physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic aspects to create an individual balance, unique to each person. If one aspect is out of balance, an individual’s overall well-being may be affected. If mental health is personal and individual, can employers effectively support employee mental health? YES, you can and you should.
Employees are people, as are entrepreneurs and consultants. They come to work each day with feelings and lived experiences that have an impact on mood, performance, and output. If an employee is struggling to cope with difficult emotions or overwhelmed by challenging personal issues, workplace productivity can be compromised. Here are some examples of mental health problems that can present in the workplace:
- Unmanaged high levels of stress or burnout (which, if prolonged, can contribute to the eventual development of an emotional disorder)
- Undiagnosed depression or anxiety (mental illnesses/disorders that affect thinking, feelings, mood, and behaviour)
- Grief or anger
- Psychological harassment or bullying in the workplace
- Substance use
- Personal issues such as critical physical illness, family-related, or trauma
- Poor financial well-being
- And many more
Mental health problems have been associated with negative workplace outcomes such as:
- Increased rates of costly absenteeism
- Presenteeism (at work in body, but not in mind)
- Decreased productivity
- Errors, missed deadlines, inability to focus or concentrate
- Conflict with colleagues
- Emotional outbursts
Here are just some of the statistics that demonstrate the high cost of mental health issues on the workplace:
- According to a joint study by the Canadian Mental Health Association and BDC, “Going it Alone: the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada,” two thirds (62%) feel depressed at least once a week, and nearly half (46%) say that mental health issues interfere with their ability to work.
- According to the Conference Board of Canada’s “Unmet Mental Health Care Needs Costing Canadian Economy Billions,” depression and anxiety alone – just two of many mental health conditions — cost the Canadian economy an estimated $49.6 billion per year.
- Four in five managers believe it is part of their job to intervene with an employee who is showing signs of depression. While 55% of managers reported intervening, only one in three report having had appropriate training to do so, as per Ipsos Reid’s 2012 Report, “Emotional Intelligence at Work.”
So what is the solution? Prevention and support. Employers must work to foster psychologically healthy workplaces characterized by respect, civility, proper training for managers, and the promotion of a healthy work-life balance. Also key to success are wellness benefits, education, and support programs that champion prevention and wellness; access to appropriate treatment, and Return-to-Work programs that include strategies to address mental health.
According to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Manitoba, “A Return to Work program is a proactive approach to helping injured workers stay at work or return to safe and productive employment as soon as health permits following a workplace injury. The program provides modified or accommodated duties and/or graduated work schedules as needed to help injured workers come back to work while they are recovering from their injury or illness. The goal is to facilitate a safe and timely return to work, prevent further injuries and optimize the worker’s recovery.”
A Return-to-Work program helps employers:
- Keep experienced workers connected to the workplace
- Reduce the costs of recruiting and training replacement staff
- Maintain productivity and team dynamics
- Improve workplace morale
- Reduce direct costs related to workplace injuries
- Meet the legal requirements related to Human Rights and WCB re-employment legislation
Join us October 2 to learn how to build an effective RTW program that incorporates strategies to assist employees who are off work as a result of mental health issues, and enables them to safely return and continue making valuable contributions. Remember: Proper planning can address potential issues related to working relationships and performance, and help support success. To learn more about RTW programs, consult the following helpful resources:
- Key Principles for an Effective Return to Work Program (WCB Manitoba)
- Supporting Employee Success (Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health)
Karen Viveiros, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce Director of Communications & Policy, holds a BA.Adv in Psychology, was a certified Mental Health First Aid trainer, and previously worked in communicating health promotion and prevention–focused information to clients of a global employee assistance program (EAP).