Health & Wellness

How Mental Health Affects Your Workplace (And What You Can Do About It)

By Judith Mewhort on January, 28 2020
3 minute read

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This year 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness. It is nearly certain that some of your employees will struggle with their mental health, and perhaps they will look to you for guidance.

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Many employees with mental health issues are reluctant to admit that they’re suffering and often try to act as if everything is fine. 

This is detrimental to both the employee and your business. A World Health Organization study on the cost of poor mental health in the workplace found that the indirect costs of mental health issues (categorized as absenteeism and lost productivity) exceed the costs of direct treatment. 

It’s in everyone’s best interest to cultivate a work environment where employees know their mental health is considered. Here are some ways to be that workplace. 

 

Encourage Openness

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One of the biggest issues that people with mental health issues face is dealing with the perceived stigma. They believe that being open about their problems will lead to people viewing them differently. As a result, they try to hide symptoms and carry on as if nothing is wrong, a decision that prolongs the issue and hurts their work performance.

Learn how to create a successful workplace wellness program from the ground up  >>

One way to get employees to be open about their struggles is to show employees that you’re invested in mental health both within the workplace and in the broader community. Some ways to do that are:

  • Contribute to mental health initiatives in your city, such as Bell Let’s Talk
  • Invest in a benefits plan that covers visits to counsellors and/or psychologists. 
  • Let them know that your door is always open for any employee needing someone to talk to or who needs help finding mental health resources. 

The BC government has recommendations for supervisors approaching employees with mental health issues. Their advices includes:

  • A focus on building a relationship based on trust with employees.
  • Communicating both positive and negative performance observations.
  • Talking to employees in non-judgemental ways.

Be Proactive

Many of the mental health issues employees will face are caused by external stressors such as financial worry. Taking a proactive approach to mental health by dealing with financial stress in the workplace and having an employee assistance program in place can help reduce the prevalence rate of poor mental health in your workplace. 

However, being proactive doesn’t always mean being preventative. Employers can also be proactive in identifying when employees are acting unusual. Mental health issues do not express themselves at work the same way they do at home. At work, anxiety or depression may present as social withdrawal and/or an inability to keep their workspace clean to their usual standards. Noticing these symptoms and having a private, sensitive conversation about any issues the employee may be experiencing (and are comfortable sharing) can motivate them to seek help early. 

 

Refer Employees to Resources

psychologistFor employees dealing with external issues affecting their mental health, having a diverse list of professionals to refer to will be useful. Our blog on free health & wellness resources is a good place to start.

Additionally, look at what services non-profits offer. The Canadian Mental Health Association frequently hosts elearning sessions and webinars for both employers and employees. They’ve also developed the For My Health screening program designed for the workplace.

Finally, ensure that employees understand how to engage with your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP providers can help direct your team members to counsellors or other resources to help them on their path to emotional wellness.

 

Conclusion

There are many ways that mental health issues  can negatively impact your workplace. Fortunately, there are even more ways to prevent such issues from arising and contribute to their resolution when they do. By being diligent about the mental health of your employees you will create a workplace environment where people are comfortable sharing their problems and seeking help. 

 

Learn more about how you can support your employee's mental health at our upcoming workshop: 

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Supporting Employee Mental Health: A Workshop Designed for People Leaders

Montridge Advisory Group has partnered with Morneau Shepell for a half-day workshop designed to provide front line managers and HR personnel with the tools to recognize the link between mental health issues and more.

Learn More

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