Today (January 26, 2022) is Bell Let’s Talk Day. Over the years, you’ve likely seen the campaign across social media platforms, on TV and wherever you receive your news. Bell Let’s Talk focuses on building awareness, acceptance and action when it comes to mental health.
Learn more about the results and impact of Bell Let’s Talk.
One in three workplace disability claims in Canada is related to mental illness and, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, on any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians are unable to go to work due to mental health-related problems or illnesses. Unfortunately, as many of us know, COVID-19 has not been helping matters over the past 22 months.
Here at PSHSA, we help organizations achieve their occupational health and safety goals and create safer work environments, and, through this work, we see the critical importance positive support for mental health plays in the workplace. We know sometimes it’s hard to talk about mental health, but conversation is important surrounding how employers today are supporting their workers tomorrow.
Outlined below are several items to consider when looking to improve workplace mental health and provide workplace supports.
It all starts at the top. Supportive, psychologically safe leaders are those who focus on identifying the required changes and support to ensure the well-being of their team and, in turn, deliver a high standard of performance by alleviating any unnecessary obstacles.
Employees who work for psychologically safe leaders are more likely to report higher job satisfaction and engagement, better workplace relationships and better psychological well-being. A psychologically safe leader is strong in the following areas:
- Communication and collaboration
- Social intelligence
- Problem solving and conflict management
- Security and safety
- Fairness and integrity
Create Policies, Start Committees, Introduce Programs
It helps to have clear policies and programs in place to hold employers and employees accountable for creating safe environments where all can communicate or express concerns around workplace mental health. This can include information on wellness programs or workplace psychological health and safety committees. Consider the following.
Building Mental Health into Operations During a Pandemic
Building mental health into your operations is important to ensure that employers and workers have the right tools in place to protect their mental health, especially during these unprecedented times. The Mental Health Commission of Canada released these guidelines to support employers through COVID-19. The goal of these guidelines is to “have organizations implement systems that can help prevent psychological harm, promote good mental health and to resolve any conflict that may arise during critical events that affect individuals and organizations”.
While you’re at it, view the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace for a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources intended to guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work.
Psychological Health and Safety Committee
Strike up or expand the mandate of your organization’s psychological health and safety committee to ensure a consistent focus on mental health awareness in the workplace. These forums provide somewhere both management and employees can discuss ideas and solutions to challenges, work together to implement organizational changes and initiatives, and offer support and resources.
Your employees can provide invaluable support to one another. Normalize discussions on mental health and wellbeing by creating informal or formal peer support networks or programs for employees to take part in.
Disconnecting From Work Policy
Employers that employ 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year must have a written policy on disconnecting from work in place by March 1 of that year and provide a copy of that policy to employees. A transitional provision establishes that employers that meet the 25-employee threshold on January 1, 2022 have until June 2, 2022 to meet the new requirement.
“Disconnecting from work” is proposed to mean not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, to be free from the performance of work. It does not explicitly require employers to forbid employees entirely from working after hours.
Violence and Harassment
Violence and harassment can greatly affect one’s mental health, no matter the context. Harassment is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, related to age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance, record of offences, sex and sexual orientation”. Workplace violence is the exercise of physical force against a worker, the attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, or the threat of physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker.
How does your organization prevent violence and harassment in the workplace? A policy clearly outlining how violence and harassment is defined, the roles and responsibilities of workplace parties, and reporting investigation and response procedures is essential to address the risk of workplace violence and harassment. Mandatory training requirements can also be included.
Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy Template | PSHSA
Workplace Harassment eLearning | PSHSA
Violence Prevention Toolkits for Healthcare Organizations | PSHSA
Wellness Programs and Initiatives
Wellness programs and initiatives have become a trend in workplaces as employers hope to better the quality of life of their employees, create a healthy culture and save on future health care costs. Workplace wellness programs can offer:
- Better overall wellbeing – wellness programs have a positive effect on physical, social, and mental wellbeing
- Increased productivity – with better health and work-life balance, employees are shown to miss fewer days of work due to sickness and be more productive
- Better sense of community – when employees participate together
- Healthy work culture – participation and enthusiasm can contribute to an enhanced workplace culture
- Ownership of your health – say yes to making healthy choices by participating
Your workplace doesn't have a formal wellness program? Lunchtime walking clubs, various health campaigns and challenges, an annual day in the park playing sports, or encouraging staff to join a fundraising or fun run are all great examples of workplace wellness initiatives.
Invest in Training
So, you’re looking for new training modules to add to your orientation process, a webinar to increase awareness or engagement in mental health and psychological safety in the workplace, or maybe you’re just looking for some information to share so you can better support your workers. Check out a few of our training resources here:
R2 for Leaders: Building Resilient Organizations - Distance Learning Program | PSHSA
Beyond Silence: Mental Health Training for Healthcare Workers | PSHSA
ResilientME | PSHSA
Mental Health Stay at Work and Return to Work for Healthcare Organizations | PSHSA
Mental Health Stay at Work and Return to Work for First Responders | PSHSA
FirstRespondersFirst.ca | PSHSA
Blogs on Mental Health | PSHSA
Coping With Uncertainty | PSHSA
Looking for something a little more specific to your organization? Whether you’re looking to explore microlearning or develop custom eLearning, Public Services Health & Safety Association can design a custom digital learning solution to bring your vision to life. Learn more at pshsa.ca/designandbuild
If you are in crisis, please go to your local hospital, call 911 immediately or locate a Crisis Centre in your region.
Find mental health support | Ontario Government
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mood Disorders Society of Canada
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Virtual Care for Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19