Woman feeling stressed being aided by friends

Mental Health Checkup: This Is the Right Time

Mental Health in the Workplace 

Everybody deserves good mental health. Contrary to what many people may think, good mental health does not mean feeling happy all the time; it’s a healthy experience of all types of human feelings, positive and negative. Increasing awareness and discussion of mental health supports individuals with such challenges and illnesses, and helps create a healthier, more inclusive environment for everyone. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association found that one in five Canadians experiences mental illness or mental health challenges in any given year; however, it’s important to know the difference between “mental health” and “mental illness.” Mental health is when someone is in a state of well-being, realizes their abilities, copes with normal life stressors, works productively, and contributes to their community. Mental illness is a health condition with a broad range of diagnoses, symptoms, and severities that hinder or inhibit a person’s ability to cope with the normal stressors of life. 

Discrimination, job burnout, unclear job expectations, and presenteeism are some of the most common workplace issues that affect employee mental health. That isn’t to say that remote workers aren’t affected by this issue; in fact, they are uniquely affected by workplace stressors, like isolation, work-life balance, and disconnection. Considering that, all employers must ensure that work environments are healthy and safe, they need to be aware of mental health challenges in their workplaces and continually implement and refine processes that promote mental health. Mental health is everyone’s right, and we are here to help you with the best tips to promote that at your company!  

Know your duties and responsibilities regarding mental health

Good mental health is essential to your organization’s success, so it’s a good idea to understand and review your responsibilities under Canadian legislation, such as human rights legislation, that apply to your organization. Keep in mind that “disability” is a prohibited ground of discrimination under human rights legislation and is defined broadly to encompass a wide range of mental illnesses and challenges, not only physical ones. This protection imposes on employers the duty to accommodate where an employee’s mental health condition interferes with job performance and workplace health and safety. If an employee is taking more days off than usual, it could be a sign that they are facing some form of mental health challenges, so you, as an HR professional, might want to check in on them. 

If you do, you may discover that their absenteeism is linked to poor mental health; if so, you should assess the situation and determine whether accommodation is necessary. You can also go above and beyond and offer initiatives that promote mental wellness to all employees, in addition to the legal obligations of investigating and accommodating. Going the extra mile shows you are committed to employee psychological health and safety and take it seriously. 

Roll out the necessary leadership training 

Mental health is a team effort. All levels, including directors, managers, and human resources departments, should get involved and improve that in the workplace, as we have discussed before in our blog. However, leaders can be particularly effective in positively influencing the workplace culture. 

Your leadership approach and expectations affect your team’s mental health. Strict deadlines and excessive workloads are among the many stressors that leave employees feeling overwhelmed and having poor work-life balance. Consequently, managers should evaluate expectations and ensure that employees have enough time to complete goals, making sure they can keep a high-performance level without harming their employees’ well-being. 

If issues do arise, managers should ensure that employees are comfortable reaching out for support, but they should also be alert to the fact that some employees will not disclose their struggles in that specific matter. To identify these cases, we recommend you keep an eye out for employees suddenly losing interest in their work, not cooperating with co-workers, missing deadlines, and frequently missing work, as they may be struggling with their mental health. Of course, these signs may simply indicate someone is having a bad day, but if there is a pattern, the situation may be more serious, which means you might need to take the next step and inquire about it. 

Employee participation is essential to achieving a mentally healthy workplace. Implement training that provides guidance on the responsibilities employees have for maintaining a mentally healthy workplace, discusses how to disclose mental health issues, and what to do if a co-worker is struggling. Both employers and employees have responsibilities regarding this matter. Mental health education for all levels within an organization can help reduce the stigma surrounding it and bring the whole workplace together in a collective effort. 

Implement mental health initiatives and benefits  

Saying you care isn’t enough; action shows actual commitment. Some examples of mental health goals include giving ample notice of changes, implementing measures to prevent bullying, decreasing overtime hour requirements, and offering flexible work options. Also, consider implementing a workplace policy to outline your commitment to supporting a mentally healthy work environment. Written commitment in a policy communicates that your organization recognizes the importance of psychological safety and how your workplace culture affects employee mental health. 

Setting goals is a good start, but your team will respond much better to more concrete actions. Consider creating or improving a wellness committee, offering flexible work arrangements, and having an open-door policy that truly works. Employees may also benefit from an EAP program, which would give them access to important support, such as confidential counselling services. Remember: poor mental health often leads to decreased productivity and potential loss of talent, so by offering these initiatives you are investing in your employees’ success and development at work, and potentially improving your company’s performance. 

Identify areas for improving wellness at your company 

The best way to find out whether someone is struggling is by asking them. Everyone’s mental health journey is unique, so you shouldn’t assume whether someone needs help, or what support they might need. Instead, establish communication channels to receive feedback from employees — including anonymously — about mental health, triggers, and their needs.  

Using a survey form, for instance, can reduce employees’ feelings of being singled out or judged for disclosing. Ensure the survey questions target a broad spectrum, ranging from feeling sad and anxious at times to mental illnesses, such as depression. If your workplace neglects mental health, employees will not feel comfortable sharing in the survey; regardless, allow employees not to participate or to respond that they “prefer not to disclose” information about their mental health. Even these non-responses give you valuable information about how safe employees feel discussing that issue. 

A commitment to mental health support establishes employee and employer trust. Once you receive feedback from the survey, analyze it to identify key issues and patterns and figure out what your organization can offer. For example, if many employees indicate that fitness is an activity that improves their wellbeing but that they do not have the financial resources or the time to go to a gym due to their work schedule, consider providing gym memberships, 30-minute activity time, or under-desk walking pads. Positive change is the goal of the survey. Run the survey regularly—at least annually—to assess how your interventions are working. 

Wellness matters! HRdownloads is here to help  

Mental health is important every day, and everyone plays a part in promoting a healthy workplace. Having positive role models in your organization promotes increased motivation and productivity among your team. It is important to know the different types of such challenges and conditions and how each person experiences them. Every journey in that area is unique and may require support to ensure that employees feel comfortable and safe at work. Remind your employees of your commitment to a mentally healthy work environment by rolling out training and ensuring that everyone understands the support available to them. Check in with your employees; sometimes improving mental health starts with a friendly chat.  

Our HR experts are there to help you implement an effective health and wellness program that includes mental health support. We offer HR software, HR content, HR support, and hundreds of online training courses that include training on mindfulness, coping with stress, and financial wellness. With a flexible and accessible platform devoted to education, you can assign and manage training and document completions at your fingertips, all from one secure platform. 

Book a free demo at a time that fits your schedule. Our HR experts will provide a free, no-obligation quote tailored to your HR needs in as little as one business day.