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4 Reasons Leaders Should Buy In to Workplace Mental Health Initiatives


Most Canadian workers agree that mental health is important, and that workplaces should make employee wellness a priority. We know that for any mental health initiative to get off the ground leadership has to be on board… but with the competing demands, time limitations and budgetary constraints most leaders are trying to juggle it can be hard for a psychological health strategy to find its way to the top of the list. Leaders sometimes have a difficult time justifying the allocation of resources to employee mental health when it feels like there are more pressing items that have to be dealt with first or instead. Here are four reasons forward-thinking leaders are recognizing the necessity of taking a proactive stance on employee mental health:


1. Prevalence

The prevalence of mental health problems alone means we’re surely going to see the impact of mental distress or unwellness in our workplaces, even within very small organizations. Stats tell us that about 50% of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. In any given week more than 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to a mental health problem or illness. There’s growing understanding that mental health is just as real as physical health and ignoring it won’t make the problem go away.


2. Costs

Budget is often cited by workplaces as being a hurdle, but in actuality the cost of not taking action around employee mental health is far higher than the cost of implementing programs to address it! Consider just a few of the effects of poor mental health in your workforce:

  • Absenteeism

  • Reduced productivity

  • Turnover

  • Morale, conflict and negative culture

  • Recruitment problems

Being proactive doesn’t just make the work environment better, it yields a strong ROI (Return on Investment). One of my favourite publications on this topic Deloitte Insights’ report, The Positive ROI of Supporting Employees’ Mental Health: A Blueprint for Workplace Mental Health Programs which outlines more than 70 KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to quantify the impact of mental health programs. Check it out HERE.


3. Market conditions

Today’s job market is highly competitive. Recruiting and retaining top talent is a priority and for the first time in history we’re seeing a true demand for a supportive organizational culture, work/life balance and other concepts directly tied to psychological health, especially as younger generations enter the workforce. Did you know that millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are the first generation of workers who will accept a lower wage for a job they feel passionate about, valued at and that aligns with their personal values? A psychologically safe and healthy work environment is indicative of an organization that strives for excellence, affording you a stellar corporate reputation as an employer of choice.


4. The Law

Legislation is evolving, including requirements for people leaders, new definitions of what constitutes harassment, bullying and violence at work and an employers obligations for the provision of a safe and healthy work environment. While laws differ from province to province we’re definitely seeing more recognition under the law that employers (and anyone acting on behalf of an employer, i.e. someone in a leadership role) must consider not just the physical work environment but also the psychological and cultural components of the workplace. The Duty to Accommodate and the Duty to Inquire apply to situations involving mental health and are among the legal obligations leaders must be knowledgeable about.


It goes without saying that for meaningful, sustainable prioritization of psychological health & safety at work leadership simply must be on board. Too often, organizations see mental health initiatives as a “nice-to-have” and fail to realize how many different problems can be solved by addressing mental health. What steps has your organization taken so far, and what benefits have you seen? Let us know in the Comments section below!


Thanks for tuning in, my friends. Have a great week.

 

Elizabeth Eldridge is a Psychological Health & Safety Consultant based in southern New Brunswick, Canada. In addition to frequent keynote speaking and corporate training on mental health she is the owner/operator of Arpeggio Health Services, Atlantic Canada’s largest provider of public mental health trainings. Learn more at elizabetheldridge.com, summitcorporatewellness.com and arpeggiohealthservices.com.

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