What employers need to prepare for
By Tracy Slywka, Injury Solutions Canada
In 2022, mental health and wellbeing are huge concerns for employers. Mental health is one of the biggest factors affecting employers and employees today! Mental health has come to the forefront in recent years with progress being made, but is it enough?
First and foremost, employers need to be educated on how to deal with mental health in the workplace. They need to be compassionate and educated to know what they as a company can do to assist employees when there are mental health concerns and to keep staff mentally well. Employers must come to terms that the old way (“sucking it up”) simply isn’t good enough anymore and realize the damage that comes with this mentality. In this day and age, we are all under a lot of stress and that looks different for all of us. The old way about we approached mental health – or rather, didn’t approach it – needs to go in the trash can.
What can employers do to help prepare their workplace for mental wellness? All employers should have a policy on mental health, discrimination, harassment and bullying. They should also acknowledge that not all people can be supervisors and nor should they. Just because someone is good at their job does not make them a “great supervisor.”
There is a saying that employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their supervisors or bosses. Employers must recognize that we all have lives outside of the workplace and sometimes our home life creeps into our work world. For example, if a colleague or supervisor recognizes that someone isn’t themselves and suddenly has trouble with their job that previously they did no problem, there may be extenuating factors impacting that person. An employee needs to know that they are in a “safe place” at work, and it is okay not to be okay! Employees should feel safe to ask for help.
Employers can impact mental health positively in the workplace. For starters, consider enrolling in a mental health first aid course and offer it to employees as well. The University of Fredericton has partnered with WorkSafe Saskatchewan to bring courses on mental health at reduced rates. Courses are online and are available through the WorkSafe Saskatchewan website, www.worksafesask.ca/training/online-courses. There are many resources through WorkSafe Saskatchewan, and employers should utilize them.
Employers should also take advantage of free events like speakers on mental health, put on by WorkSafe Saskatchewan, industry associations and safety associations. Host lunch and learns in the workplace. Ensure you have an employee and family assistance program (EFAP) as some workplaces may not be equipped to deal with mental health concerns, and programs like these can offer critical support to employees. Employees need to know that there is someone who may be able to help them confidentially in their time of need.
It’s important that employers walk the talk, as too often policies and procedures are written but when it comes time to apply them, they’re forgotten. Treating a mental health concern should be no different than a broken leg. People need to feel that there is no stigma associated with mental health and should feel free to ask for help – no different than a physical injury. Employees should know that if they are not mentally well that they can take the time they need to get better. Employees who are not mentally well cannot be productive in the workplace.
One in five Canadians (7 million) will experience mental illness annually, according to an article prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Mental illness, if not treated, can lead to greater absenteeism rates as well as disability claims, which ultimately affect productivity as well as the financial implications from having employees away from the workplace. It really is in the best interest of employers to acknowledge mental health as a challenge employees may face and have a plan of action to help them get the help they need. People function best when they are mentally and physically well.