Workplace mental health costs are on the rise. In fact, about 30% of short and long-term disability claims in Canada are attributed to mental health problems and illnesses. The impact of this on the Canadian economy is estimated to be $50 billion annually. What is the cost to your business?

In this article, Principal Mike Dick explains his professional experience in managing mental health in the workplace and how businesses can strengthen their mental health initiatives and reduce their mental health liabilities.

As a newly promoted Human Resources site leader for a 1,000 employee manufacturing site at Proctor & Gamble I did not realize how lucky I was to have a medical team that supported our employees as part of my HR (Human Resources) team. The team consisted of two registered nurses who were full-time employees of the company and a contracted doctor that was available to us for two days/week. This was the norm in all Procter & Gamble locations, so I almost took it for granted.

Based on analysis of short and long-term disability trends we started to tackle how best we could handle the mental health issues that were impacting our work force. As with any illness it boiled down to early detection and appropriate treatment. Far too often the mental illness was being masked by other symptoms and not treated, thus creating lower productivity or longer return to work times should the individual be so incapacitated that they were off work.

So, our approach was straight forward.

  • Train leadership on the warning signs regarding the diverse types of mental illness.
  • Triage potential concerns through the medical team who regularly interacted with our employees.
  • Provide those who needed psychological support access through a university program that was also studying impacts of mental illness in the workplace.

Fast forward 30 years and my colleague, Gabrielle Bochynek and I have just completed an engagement with a client who wanted to assess their workplace’s Psychological Health and Safety. The client chose to use the 2013 CSA Group National Standard for Canada titled “Psychological health and safety in the workplace”. This standard was developed through a collaborative effort on behalf of employers, employees, service providers and regulators and was commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and funded by the Government of Canada, Bell Canada, and Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. Many of the things we did in the 1990’s have been incorporated into this assessment along with the training tools that are made available free of charge.

National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace assessment provided us with a full understanding of how satisfied our employees were including with the Town’s ability to deal with issues that impact mental health within the workplace. It gave us insight into our strengths and identified key areas for improvement. We now have a roadmap and significant on-line resources that will help us improve the psychological health of our work force.”                         

Cathy Moran – Senior Lead, Human Resources and Health and Safety, Town of Orangeville

In addition to the nine typical employee satisfaction topics in previous surveys, have been added to the assessment tool to provide a more complete picture of the mental health and safety of your workplace.

  • Psychological and social support
  • Psychological demands
  • Psychological protection
  • Protection of physical safety

Assessment of your organization against this standard will give you a window into the psychological health of your workplace but it will also give insight into all the other factors that go into having a healthy and engaged workforce.

The pandemic has put a huge strain on the mental health and well-being of many employees and this exercise will allow you to chart a path that will reduce the mental strain and engage employees in making the workplace once again a place they enjoy coming too and one where they support each other to deliver on the organization’s objectives.

Your employees are critical to the success of your business. You need to ensure you are looking after both their physical and psychological safety while they are at work. At The Osborne Group we believe that the best way to improve is to assess, discuss outcomes and implement solutions to improve any gaps uncovered in the assessment. We are knowledgeable and fully supportive of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and are available to help you make your workplace a better place for your employees.

Gabrielle Bochynek and Michael Dick are Principals in our People and Culture practice at The Osborne Group. Contact them for more information on how they can assist your organization.