Mental health has a direct impact on employee productivity, workplace atmosphere, and corporate success. Mental health issues like stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression all take their annual toll in employee disengagement and reduced performance. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Canadian employers with a vision are taking a proactive approach to improving their employees’ mental well-being.
A healthy work-life balance, reasonable workload management, and respectful corporate culture are some of the most effective workplace strategies for mental health.
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1. Nurture Work-Life Balance
Juggling the demands of a career, busy family life, and other responsibilities can feel overwhelming. A rigid “work always comes first” attitude may place an impossible burden on employees who are the primary caretakers of young children, elderly parents, or other dependent family members. In contrast, recognizing that employees have commitments outside work will help maintain realistic expectations.
Here are some approaches employers might consider to improve work-life balance in the workplace:
- Flexible schedules. For many people, the traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office hours may not work. Some employees may need a break in the middle of the day to pick their children up from preschool. Others may occasionally prefer to come into the office during a weekend and free up one weekday instead.
- Work-from-home options. COVID-19 with its lockdowns and social distancing mandates has led to a veritable work-from-home boom. Many organization leaders were surprised to realize how well telecommuting works for their company. While a full-time work-at-home setup isn’t for everyone, more and more companies are exploring hybrid home/office models.
- Vacations. Countless workers have unused vacation days that roll over from year to year. Others keep getting emails and messages from work during their vacation. A discerning employer understands that every worker needs time to unwind and recharge their batteries.
Above all, the company leadership can serve as a model for a healthy work-life balance. If the company’s CEO regularly takes time off or sets down a policy of no messages from work after office hours, the employees may find it easier to achieve an equilibrium between work and their other duties.
2. Manage Workloads
Every business has its ebbs and flows, but even during busy periods, employees shouldn’t feel like they are drowning in projects with no control over workflow.
Effective workload management can enhance employee performance, reduce stress levels, and improve employee satisfaction. Here are a few tips to keep workloads under control:
- Prioritize urgent or high-value projects
- Avoid multitasking and have one employee or team focus on one project
- Emphasize clear, open communication regarding deadlines and work expectations
- Use effective task management software like Monday, Asana, or Trello
- Ask yourself: Do you expect a reasonable number of people to perform a realistic amount of work? If workloads are consistently high, it may be time to hire more workers.
3. Foster a Respectful Work Environment
Many people dread coming into the office because of the toxic work environment they experience on a daily basis. Toxic workplace behaviour can hurt corporate culture and stunt company growth. Unchecked, it can lead to low morale, poor work performance, and high employee turnover.
Every employer should be aware of unhealthy workplace interactions such as:
- Verbal aggression
- Sexist or racist undercurrents or microaggressions
Today, the vast majority of employers will take swift and resolute action against sexual harassment, racist slurs, or open mistreatment in the workplace. However, some covert passive-aggressive behaviours can be harder to identify. These may include withholding important information, disguised insults, minimizing a co-worker’s achievements, or indirectly blaming other employees for one’s mistakes.
While it’s impossible to reform a toxic work environment overnight, employers can commit to a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying and other socially unhealthy behaviours in the workplace. Screening tests can help make sure an employer hires team players with high levels of emotional intelligence.
4. Promote Awareness
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Canadian economy loses over $50 billion every year because of mental health problems, while 70% of Canadian employees have expressed concerns about their workplace’s psychological safety and health.
Despite these alarming statistics, many people still treat mental health as a taboo subject. There’s a mistaken perception that succumbing to anxiety or depression marks one as weak and incapable.
As an employer, you can foster a work environment that promotes mental health awareness. Effective workplace strategies for mental health may include open communication, stress management activities, and relevant educational programs for employees.
Also, make sure that your employee group coverage includes easy access to mental health services. As an employer, you want to prevent a situation in which valuable workers are experiencing mental health issues but avoid seeking help because of shame or inaccessibility.
5. Prioritize Employee Benefits
Broad group insurance coverage can contribute to peace of mind in the workplace. When employees know that they have health, dental, and disability insurance beyond what the provincial health insurance plans provide, they are more likely to feel secure and stay loyal to their organization. There is also a higher chance they will recommend their company as a good place to work to other potential employees.
Business owners who want to go an extra mile for their workers may also consider adopting a wellness spending account (WSA) program as part of their company’s mental health strategy. By funding activities such as yoga classes, mindfulness programs, or coaching sessions, WSAs can encourage employees to take care of their mental health.
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