October 10th is Mental Health Day. The day is designed to help raise awareness and remove the stigmas associated with psychological issues.
23% of Canadian workers are uncomfortable speaking about a psychological health issue with their manager — even though 20% of workers experience a problem each year.
Outsourcing HR helps reduce stigma of reporting
One solution advocated by many consultants is the use of outsourced arms-length HR Management Services — thought to improve reporting due to the impartiality of a third-party manager. [Do you have a question for an HR Management professional on the issue of workplace stress? Please use our form below.]
Regardless, the costs of “The costs for providing reasonable mental health-related accommodations are often fairly low, with most costs well under $500 per person per year” according to the Office of Disability Employment.
Awareness first: take off the blindfold
Awareness of mental health is the first step. Working on improving working conditions for all employees and team members is a number one priority for many companies, and cited often by HR Managers as a critical task. Taking off the “metaphorical” blindfold is the most helpful and productive first step.
One in five Canadians suffer from a psychological health problem — and the workplace itself is one of the key contributing factors. The cost in down-time missed deadlines and replacement team-members is extraordinarily high in Canada, as high as $20 billion annually. The Mental Health Commissioner of Canada states:
“The total cost from mental health problems to the Canadian economy exceeds $50 billion annually, 20 billion of which results from work-related causes.” 
This makes HR management the key driver in helping team members, with an organized support effort that includes: resources, training, policies that alleviate stressors, preventative measures, support protocols, healthcare and disability coverage and HR planning that accommodates mental health issues.
Just the facts
First the facts. According to Statistics Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, as well as the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety :
- 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a psychological health problem or illness in any given year.
- Psychological health problems and illnesses are the number one cause of disability in Canada.
- Psychological health problems cost the Canadian economy ~$51 billion per year, $20 billion of which results from work-related causes.
- 47% of working Canadians consider their work to be the most stressful part of daily life.
- Psychological health problems affect mid-career workers the most, lowering the productivity of the Canadian workforce.
- Only 23% of Canadian workers would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue. In an Ipsos Reid survey, 83% of employees believe that they have a responsibility to self-identify if they have a mental illness, but 31% felt that their direct supervisor would not be understanding or supportive if they did so.
What are the workplace risk factors?
An outsourced HR team will be able to help most companies mitigate costs and damage. Part of that process is to eliminate the risk factors in the workplace — the 15 top factors cited by the WHO (World Health Organization.). The top 15 risk factors — according to the Canadian Federal Government, with examples are:
- Excessive workload
Example: An intern is assigned many more projects than he can be reasonably expected to complete during his work term.
- Abuse of Authority
Example: A manager takes credit for a proposal that he did not author at a stakeholders’ meeting and uses his power to discourage the employee from raising concerns.
- High demand and/or low control
Example: An employee is expected to absorb the work duties of two colleagues who have been let go due to organizational restructuring.
- High effort and/or low reward
Example: An employee goes above and beyond to provide excellent customer service, but has never been recognized by the department for her contributions or work ethic.
- Unfair treatment
Example: An executive promotes one employee over another due to favouritism only, not demonstrated experience or skills.
- Discrimination Example: A recruiter deliberately excludes applicants based on their status, e.g.; visible minorities, race, gender, marital status, disability when forwarding potential candidates for a new position to human resources.
- Sexual Harassment
Example: A female employee receives unwanted comments of a sexual nature regarding her appearance from co-workers.
- Unfulfilling work
Example: An employee is frequently assigned to photocopying duty by senior employees, thus rarely has an opportunity to work on cases related to his competencies.
- Low employee engagement and/or influence
Example: A company never organizes employee engagement opportunities such as town halls or potlucks, leaving employees feeling as if they did not matter.
- Little/no professional development opportunities
Example: An employee’s requests to attend a conference that would significantly help her to carry out her work duties are denied every year.
- A poor physical work environment
Example: A broken air conditioner has not been repaired in over a year, causing employees in the office to become overheated and irritated during the summer months.
- Physical violence at work
Example: A client forcefully shoves his legal advisor against a wall after the verdict of his trial is read.
- Other Harassment
Example: An employee follows a temporary worker around the office and repeatedly asks for personal information to which she has no right.
- Lack of Work Accommodation/Flexibility
Example: An employee’s request to take the day off due to a family emergency is denied by his boss.
- Non-Work Related Illnesses and/or Conditions
Example: An employee who suffered a motor vehicle accident in the past year experiences anxiety at work.
Tactics for the workplace to improve mental well-being
Various sources cite some logical and relatively easy tactics and strategies for improving the psychological health and safety of your team.
It’s clear that management is a big part of the issue for workers, whether it be from “unfairness” or “lack of training” or “recognition. This is one reason many companies are turning to outsourced HR Management services, such as Pivotal for help. Third-party outsourced experts are more likely to recognize the early indicators of workplace stress.
The key tactics and interventions include:
For Managers and Supervisors
- Precisely outline employee roles and responsibilities.
- Be flexible and accommodate employees who need special work arrangements.
- Provide training on workplace psychological health, and try to remove the stigmas that might prevent employees from coming for help.
- Recognize the early indicators of workplace stress.
- Be assertive in recognizing employee contributions.
- Actively listen to employees’ concerns
- Be pro-active in working on legitimate concerns. (i.e. Don’t be all talk.) Respond effectively to employee concerns
- Watch for and intervene if needed in employee conflicts.
- Strongly emphasize employee participation in team-building.
- Be the role model: lead by example for respectful workplace behaviours.
- If you don’t have an outsourced resource, make sure you keep up to date on psychological health policies.
Employees have a role, too
It isn’t just the “boss” who creates stress. Fellow-employees, particularly in competitive workplace environments, can be a major stressor. Training teams is helpful, putting emphasis on:
- Be supportive of peers who are experiencing stress.
- Have a positive attitude in the worplace.
- Offer help — or ask for it — in situations of workplace abuse.
- Report any incidences of workplace abuse, violence, or harassment.
Also, as part of HR management, it is important to let employees know, that they should:
- Rest and take all breaks and holidays.
- Try to attain a balance of work-life.
What else can be done?
HR Outsource teams such as Pivotal can really help in corporate and organizational planning. What can an organization do to lower stress — and thereby mitigate financial losses from mental health issues? A corporate culture encouraging recognition is a good first step. The overall list is long:
- Recognize employee contributions.
- Organize stress-reduction activities at work.
- Keep up to date on workplace psychological health research.
- Share health promotion strategies with other organizations.
- Involve employees in the development of workplace psychological health programs.
- Develop a policy statement that supports workplace psychological health and related initiative.
- Assess the current workplace culture.
- Connect employees with resources on psychological health.
- Financially support workplace psychological health programs.
- Establish peer support and/or counselling networks.
- Designate one individual per organization to be the psychological health coordinator, who sits on the Policy Health and Safety Committee, and where there is no policy committee, sits on the Work Place Health and Safety Committee.
- Establish an incident-reporting system.
- Establish a conflict resolution system
Do you need HR Management help to reduce impact on your workplace from mental health issues? Ask Pivotal: