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It's Time to Change Company Culture Surrounding Mental Health and Wellness

A recent national survey conducted by Morneau Shepell indicates that one in three working Canadians reported having, or having had, a mental health condition such as depression or an anxiety disorder. 

This means that it is nearly impossible to find a single workplace where at least one employee does not have or know someone with mental illness. The impact of an employee having such an illness does not only affect the individual’s personal life but their work life as well. As an employer, taking proactive measures to create a company culture surrounding mental health and wellness will strengthen relationships and create a healthy and respectful workplace. Engage your employees in on-going dialogue about mental health and together, develop positive workplace solutions; this will help reduce negativity and defensiveness about the topic. Unaddressed, mental illness can have severe negative effects on workplace productivity, absenteeism, disability and overall workplace culture.

One common misconception of mental illness is that an individual is in control of their illness and symptoms. This can create insensitive or uneducated statements and beliefs such as saying that they should “stop being so sensitive” or assuming that an individual is just being lazy. These assumptions are detrimental to the well-being of individuals with mental illnesses as they foster feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and ultimately have damaging effects on their success in the workplace.

That is why it is crucial for businesses to develop a workplace culture that is accepting and understanding of the seriousness and legitimacy of mental illness. The following are a few tips and suggestions for employers to create an inclusive and mentally healthy work environment.

    1.  Provide positive feedback and constructive criticism. Employees want to feel supported and to feel that their contributions are valued. Ensure that they are able to ask for help when needed without fear of reprisal.

    2.  Provide clear and open communication surrounding mental health, prevention, early detection and treatment. This will encourage individuals experiencing mental health issues to ask for help.

    3.  Have a Zero Tolerance approach to discrimination in the workplace. Encourage a fair and inclusive workplace for all employees.

    4.  If an employee decides to take a leave of absence, discourage company gossip and respect confidentiality. Discuss with the employee how they would like information to be shared with co-workers. This can include how the employee will respond to questions about their health, their absence and any changes in work responsibilities.

    5.  Treat employees with a mental illness the same way that you would treat someone with a physical illness or injury. If it is company practice to send flowers or a card to someone that has taken a leave due to a physical injury, you should do the same for someone that has taken a sick leave due to a mental illness.

    6.  When the employee returns to work, integrate them into the workforce as you would any employee. Be supportive and work with the employee to identify and set specific and measurable goals. 

A company culture that is accepting and inclusive of all illnesses, whether physical or mental, cannot be built in a day. But there is no better time than now to start. 

     HR Performance and Results offers services in all areas of Human Resources and Health & Safety, as well as training and development workshops on topics such as Leadership and Communication Skills. Contact HR Performance and Results today to learn more!

October 2018

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