Many employers will have been promoting employee wellness during Mental Health Week but it can be tough to uphold that active involvement all year round. Here, one prominent industry figure offers her advice on maintaining the positive momentum.
“I would encourage employers to take a look at the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
,” says Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“This is a set of guidelines, tools and resources to help employers promote mental health and prevent psychological harm at work,” she explains. “Employers might be surprised to know that most times they’re already taking actions that are beneficial to the mental health of their employees and so have a foundation on which to build.”
Launched in 2013, the Standard has been downloaded more than 35,000 times and has garnered global interest – already, more than 15 countries have engaged with Canadian experts to learn how to implement it, most recently Germany and Australia.
“There’s a great hunger among employers to improve the mental health of their employees but until recently they haven’t had a comprehensive set of tools and resources to guide effective action,” says Bradley – the National Standards, however, is fast filling that gap.
“The Standard isn’t prescriptive and it’s flexible,” Bradley tells HRM. “Its tools and resources can be tailored to suit a wide variety of organizations, from small businesses to large multi-national corporations and to a wide variety of sectors.”
Based on continuous improvement – deciding on a plan of action, implementing that plan, measuring its success, adjusting the plan and repeating the process – Bradley says there is no “finish line” because organizations can always do better.
For organizations that do invest in employee wellness and actively work to reduce stigma, Bradley says the benefits – both to the business and staff – are countless.
“Creating a systematic and sustainable approach for psychological health and safety like the one that exists to protect the physical safety of workers is not only the right thing to do, it is an economic imperative,” she told HRM.
“An employer would never dream of sending an employee onto a construction site without a hardhat, so why wouldn’t that same employer protect what’s beneath that hardhat? Psychological health and safety needs to become part of the cultural fabric of organizations, not an add-on or after-thought.
“A work environment that promotes good mental health is socially responsible, makes economic sense and helps attract and keep good employees. To reap the rewards of a psychologically healthy workforce, employers need to make it a priority.”