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 supports increased by 24%, and of the $50 billion mental health services cost in Canada each year, $20 billion is a direct result of 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 research from Deloitte, who are leaders in the study of mental health in the workplace, mental health issues account for up to 30-40% of 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 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 has 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 through the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, offered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the company has was recognized by Canada’s Safest Employers Awards 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 to 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, major Canadian airline WestJet found that its growing number of short- and long-term disability claims, a trend that has only been worsened by pandemic pressures, had reached a breaking point. In response, they invested in The Working Mind, a mental health-focused training program and 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 put into perspective the return on investment 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.

Comments are closed.