Building a Workplace Mental Health Strategy

The last few years have provided a mental health challenge for many Canadians. We’ve all been through the social isolation and anxiety brought about by a pandemic, and those impacts will continue to be felt in the months and years to come.

If you occupy a leadership role in your business, you must prioritize the mental health of your employees. Unfortunately, many people try to disguise that they’re dealing with a mental illness. This is largely due to a fear they will be penalized for their honesty or a lack of trust in management. Mental health problems typically show up in the workplace in the following ways:

  • uncharacteristic performance issues
  • lateness
  • absenteeism
  • change in sociability
  • poor work output

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion yearly in lost productivity. On the human side, mental illness can cause untold suffering for individuals who often deal with their issues in silence.

Creating a Workplace Mental Health Strategy can help your business to create a supportive environment that promotes employee well-being, reduces absenteeism, and helps to improve productivity.

Here are some best practices for creating your own Workplace Mental Health Strategy.

Best Practices for Creating a Workplace Mental Health Strategy

Understand the Issues Staff are Facing

Before you create your mental health strategy, it pays to understand the issues affecting your employees. As mentioned above, many people fear being honest and upfront about their mental health challenges. Consider creating an anonymous survey where employees can share their mental health issues.

Consider one-on-one interviews if you have an open and honest relationship with staff. This will give you a complete picture of what’s happening in your workplace and help inform your strategy for addressing employee needs.

Buy-in from Senior Leadership

For this strategy to work, you’ll need full buy-in from the key decision-makers in your business. Without their support, it’s difficult to make meaningful and lasting changes to the culture and policies of a business. Communicate the importance of mental health in the workplace to them, and share the findings you gathered in your anonymous survey.

Do not share individual examples provided to you by named staff members.

Develop Policies and Procedures

Getting into the specifics of your Workplace Mental Health strategy, including policies and procedures supporting employee well-being, is critical. Consider areas such as:

  • Offering mental health benefits (such as counseling or therapy) as part of your employee extended health benefits
  • Encouraging a healthy work-life balance
  • Promoting regular breaks and time off
  • Encouraging open communication and reducing the stigma around mental health

Training and Education

Continuing training and education around your Workplace Mental Health Strategy is vital to its success. Not only will it reinforce your policies, it will also help employees and managers to recognize the signs of mental health issues, reduce stigma, and support colleagues who are struggling with their mental health.

Encourage Employee Feedback

Your goal is to create a workplace culture of openness and empathy. Creating buy-in from staff and incorporating their feedback is a critical step in helping to achieve this. Encourage each staff member to share their thoughts on your chosen strategy. Use this feedback to refine and improve the strategy.

Resources to Consult

If you’re looking to learn more or find support in creating your Workplace Health Strategy, here are some resources to refer to: