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A simple guide to mental health in the workplace for small businesses in Alberta

It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people across Canada live with a mental illness every year. These illnesses can be temporary or long-term, but many of them, like anxiety and depression, sprout from poor work-life balance and excess stress. As such, the workplace plays a major role in helping individuals manage their mental health and stay positive.

Mental Health is a Big Issue

To put things into perspective, 2.2 million people in Canada live with Type 2 Diabetes, but an astonishing 6.7 million people in Canada live with some form of mental health problem or illness.

In a given year, nearly 30% of people between the ages of 20 to 29 will experience a mental illness. By the time Canadians hit 40 years of age, 1 in every 2 will have had or still have a mental illness. The fact is, mental health issues span all ages and working age individuals are hit the hardest.

What’s The Cost of Poor Mental Health?

When companies fail to support workers with a focus on psychological health, Canadians end up paying for it. It’s estimated that roughly 30% of short-term and long-term disability claims in Canada are due to problems associated with mental health. Across Canada, the total cost of mental health problems adds up to more than $50 billion each year.

What’s more, the most recent and complete data available from 2011 states that mental health problems cost Canadian employers about $6 billion every year in lost productivity due to turnover, presenteeism, and absenteeism. Canada’s Mental Health Commission, which was responsible for collecting these numbers, estimates that the economic cost of mental health issues in the country will add up to more than $2.5 trillion in the next 30 years.

What’s The Role of the Workplace in Mental Health?

A workplace can take on many roles for mental health and more companies are actively striving to be positive contributors to their employees’ psychological well being.

Surveys have found that about 70% of Canadian workers are concerned about the psychological aspects of health and safety within the workplace. An astonishing 14% say they don’t feel their workplace is healthy or safe at all. These working environments definitely put a toll on employee wellbeing and lead to staggering financial costs.

A great workplace can help improve wellbeing by giving individuals the chance to feel productive while building bonds with team members and working together towards common career and organizational goals. Having proper support for good performance and continued advancement within an organization is key.

How Can Companies Support Mental Health?

Although mental health is a challenging space to tackle, employers and Human Resource professionals are in a very powerful position when it comes to supporting employees’ mental health status. By acting as a resource center, employers can reap the financial and people-centric benefits of having a mentally healthy workplace.

#1 Work To Raise Awareness

While the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly receding, it’s still important that you inform employees about the facts associated with mental health across Canada. Let them know how widespread the issue is and share information about the signs and symptoms.

If you are seeking resources, the Mental Health Commission of Canada provides tools, templates, and free resources to evaluate and implement policies. To reduce stigma related to mental illness, the Mental Health Commission of Canada also provides guidance on how to adopt a mental health strategy such as the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This includes evolving accommodations policies ensure managers support mental health.

#2 Train Your Managers

Managers are your direct point of contact to your employees, so they should be well-trained when it comes to supporting mental health. Providing relevant training opportunities will help your managers do more to support the mental health of every employee. Management tends to seek out “one-size-fits-all” solutions, so your training should emphasize the importance of flexibility and taking a personalized approach to mental health.

#3 Support Work-Life Balance for Employees

Work-life balance is a topic that’s almost always brought up when discussing wellness, and that’s because it’s extremely important. However, most people struggle with burnout and feelings of overwork and stress. Giving your employees the tools they need to better manage their time is a good first step to supporting a healthy work-life balance.

#4 Develop A Pool of Resources

Screening your employees for mental health issues and problems can help issues be spotted and addressed early on, before they have the chance to turn into something bigger. Proactively identify resources for employees who may feel that they need extra assistance and for those who want to be actively involved in keeping themselves mentally healthy.

Employee engagement surveys can help you detect when employees are at or near a point of burning out or otherwise experiencing work-related issues. The results of employee engagement surveys can play a huge role in helping you prevent health issues in the workplace, so use these surveys often and monitor the results. Experts agree that engagement is the single best metric of organizational wellness.

Corporate wellness programs can help with all of this, ultimately reducing your costs as an employer by engaging employees, improving overall morale, and keeping your workers happy and healthy.

Curious on how to implement a mental health program or looking for a pre-packaged mental health toolbox? Call us today to chat 1-866-285-3399 or connect at