Psychological health and safety is fast becoming a top priority for most HR professionals but there’s always room for improvement – here, one expert in the field offers her advice on how employers can advance their workplace mental wellness.
Health researcher Nitika Rewari works with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is currently following over 40 organizations as they implement the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
. She says there are a number of important elements HR must focus on for effective implementation.
“For an effective approach, it’s important to define why you want to address workplace mental health. Why does this matter to you?” says Nitika Rewari, manager of workplace mental health at the MHCC.
One of key reason could be cost, say Rewari. Currently, the mental health issues of working-aged Canadians cost employers more than $20 billion every year and this cost is forecast to approach $30 billion by 2030.
“With employed Canadians spending over 60 per cent of their waking hours on the job, the workplace can play a significant role in either addressing the psychological health and safety challenges or contributing to them,” says Rewari.
Rewari says it is important to consider how protecting and promoting the mental health of workers helps achieve an organization’s strategic objectives.
“This means really integrating workplace mental health initiatives in a way that advances those strategies and supports the organization’s workers,” she tells HRM.
“The next key component is commitment. Commitment begins with the leadership but carries through every level of the organisation,” says Rewari. “This is because commitment leads to buy-in and buy-in leads to an improved organizational culture.”
“Communicate effectively and often to ensure that you’re reaching out to your workers and are being honest about the pain points of the organization, the successes of the organisation and what the organisation is doing well,” says Rewari.
“Then go back and obtain feedback from your employees to understand how to address any gaps that are barriers to successfully addressing psychological health and safety in the workplace. Organizations must also inform their employees what initiatives have been chosen to address these gaps and how these were decided upon.”
“Building the psychological health and safety culture of an organization is so important,” says Rewari. “Attached to that is applying a psychological health and safety lens during times of change as well as embedding psychological health and safety into the way daily business is done.”
“The other point is around ensuring adequate resources are available,” says Rewari. “The Standard is not something organizations can implement in one day, one month or even one year. It’s a tool that must be implemented using a team approach. Organizations have to continually improve upon how they are implementing the Standard and the related initiatives, and ensure the implementation team has representation from a wide range of groups such as HR, occupational health
and safety, employees, unions, managers and supervisors, and leaders.
“That way, to the work can be divided up and avoid relying on one person. On the financial front, when making recommendations which cost money, such as implementing training and programs, it is important to ensure adequate resources are available.”
Assessment and taking action
“Organizations must assess on an ongoing basis, the current state of their processes and mental health related concerns. This can be done by using the audit tool and the list of data indicators provided within the Standard
. This will help organizations recognize the gaps and choose the best actions to address them,” says Rewari.
“Organizations must also measure the impact their initiatives have had on the advancing the mental health of their employees. This will help inform future decisions on implementation efforts.”
“Sustainability is also key,” says Rewari. “It’s not going to get done in a month or a year so continue your efforts to ensure that you’re continuing integrate psychological health and safety in the way your business is run.”