Workplace mental health is good for business

The role of workplaces in promoting positive mental health among their employees has become an important discussion in small and large companies across North America. Not only are employers recognizing the role of mental health in promoting a positive workplace culture, but also its relationship to productivity. In 2020, requests for mental health support increased by 24%, and of the $50 billion that mental health services cost annually in Canada, $20 billion comes from directly from workplace losses.

With these numbers rising amid post-pandemic changes, employers are finding there is a cost to neglecting mental health as an organization. This includes the cost of disability claims. According to a study by Deloitte, a leader in the study of mental health in the workplace, mental health problems account for up to 30 to 40 percent short-term disability (STD) claims and 30% of long-term disability (LTD) claims in Canada. Mental illness can also impact an employee’s skill level in their current job. Research suggests that depression can reduce cognitive performance by up to 35% and can interfere with the ability to perform physical tasks about 20% of the time.

In workplaces with specific health and safety and accident prevention requirements, mental illness poses a risk to the physical safety of employees when left unmanaged. Canadian oil production platform Hibernia worked to mitigate this risk by introducing new health and safety policies, reflecting “psychological safety” as a priority in the workplace. Corporate Wellness Committee Leader Steve Tizzard recognizes the role of employers in reducing the risk of mental harm in the workplace. “We are seeing globally that if workers are not focused [or their] “head in the game”, they can be distracted, tired and have problems even with routine tasks. Tizzard emphasizes the connection between physical and mental health. “I am convinced that mental health does not only contribute to physical safety at work, but to physical health in general.” Hibernia’s commitment to employee health and safety includes an investment in training by the Mental Health First Aid Program (MHFA)offered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the company has been recognized by Canada’s Safest Employers Awards in 2015.

Tizzard agrees that employers see the opportunity cost of not taking employee mental health seriously. “Companies don’t just ‘talk’, but ‘walk the talk’. I have worked with many local, national and international companies that realize the ROI and value of supporting employees. »

With a change in orientation comes more data. According Deloitte, a positive return on investment (ROI) on mental health initiatives in Canadian workplaces is within reach. In a study of seven companies that provided three years of data, the median annual return on investment for mental health programs was C$1.62. Companies with programs in place for three or more years had a median annual return on investment of C$2.18.

Business leaders at all levels are implementing their mental health prioritization with investments in training, workplace initiatives and policies, and reaping the benefits. In January 2021, a major Canadian airline WestJet found that their growing number of short- and long-term disability claims, a trend that was only compounded by pandemic pressures, had reached a breaking point. In response, they invested in The spirit of worka mental health training program and a resource bank.

Across Canada, companies of all sizes are realizing tangible benefits by investing in mental health, recognizing that the greatest risk to their workforce is doing nothing. Data leaders like Deloitte have relativize the ROI this type of investment can have, presenting a clear business case for mental health programs. An investment in mental health is not only good for workplace culture, overall productivity and employee health and safety, it’s just good for business.

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