In any given week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems or illnesses.
If ignored, mental health issues can contribute to a cycle of low productivity and absenteeism. As such, employers and employees should work together to identify stressors in the workplace and develop strategies for reducing exposure to these factors.
The relationship between work environment and mental health
A survey found that work-related stress was the primary cause of mental health problems and illnesses for 1 in 3 adult Canadians. Employees carry the stress and anxiety of work home, where it can impact their personal lives and relationships.
Some of the top work-related stressors include:
- Organisational culture.
- Poor management.
- Job demands.
- Professional relationships.
- Change management.
Contributing factors like tight deadlines, job insecurity, heavy workloads, harassment, and discrimination can heighten work-related stress. Therefore, an effective wellness program should address all of these elements.
The consequences of these issues are far-reaching. The aforementioned survey also found that 72% of employees believe their mental health problems had or would negatively impact their careers. Essentially, many employees are aware that the mental health issues they face today could have a long-term impact on their financial wellness.
Challenges of addressing mental health at work
Although it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees with mental health issues, many employees are hesitant to discuss the subject. In fact, only 23% of Canadian workers feel comfortable discussing mental health issues with their employer.
Some people may attempt to hide their mental illness symptoms and they may not be willing to discuss the issue at all. It’s important to respect an individual’s personal limitations around sensitive conversations. It’s always best to express concern without making assumptions about the other person’s mental health.
How to recognize mental health problems
An estimated 3.4 million Canadian workers experience mental health issues on a given day. Not everyone displays the same behaviours when they feel stressed. However, a few common indicators of mental health conditions include:
- Altered demeanour and appearance: Stressed-out employees may begin ignoring their personal hygiene or violating the dress code policy. These changes may be accompanied by excessive worry, nervousness, and irritability.
- Mood swings and outbursts: Lack of control over emotions is an indicator of poor mental health. Disruptive behaviors such as a sudden willingness to break rules could be warning signs.
- Tardiness and absenteeism: Workers struggling with mental health issues may withdraw from their work by showing up late or calling out sick often. When they do work, they may seem lethargic and unmotivated.
Why it’s important to address mental health at work
Taking steps to develop a positive work culture creates improvements for many aspects of an organization, from its fiscal performance to its brand reputation. Organizations that strive to provide a healthy work-life balance benefit from higher productivity levels and innovation.
Simple ways to address mental health issues at work include:
- Take frequent breaks: Going for a short walk during the lunch hour or participating in five minutes of guided meditation can relieve stress and improve focus.
- Eat and drink well: Eating healthy meals that are low in sugar and drinking plenty of water can reduce the impact of workplace stressors.
- Avoid gossip: Toxic interpersonal relationships can contribute to poor mental health. Maintaining healthy relationships increases feelings of support and belonging.
A Healthy Workplace® focuses on physical and psychological health
A workplace environment supports overall employee wellness by addressing four themes:
- Physical environment.
- Mental health and workplace culture.
- Corporate social responsibility
- Healthy lifestyle.
In such an environment, the organization provides its people with tools and programs to contribute to and sustain a culture where they feel valued and engaged.
Get your free copy of our Healthy Workplace Standard to learn more about promoting employee physical and psychological health.