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Workplace Mental Health Promotion

A workplace health promotion program is a series of activities, initiatives and policies developed for the continuous enhancement of the quality of working life, health and the well-being of all working populations. These interventions are developed to improve the environment (physical, psychosocial, organizational, economic), to increase personal empowerment and for personal growth development.[1]

There is no blueprint for a mentally healthy workplace because every workplace is different: the people doing the work, the work that needs to be done, the leaders running the organization, the size of the organization, the external environment that influences the societal norms, and the external resources the company draws. They all affect employee mental health.

Mental health promoting actions and strategies are oriented to empowerment, choice and participation. They strengthen protective factors, lessen risk factors and build on the social determinants of health, often involving partnerships across sectors.
CMHA, Ontario and branches, 2006

As illustrated in the diagram, workplace health promotion activities can fall under three categories: occupational health and safety, health and lifestyle practices and organizational culture. In practice, workplace health promotion activities can fall under multiple categories. This model is discussed in more detail in Section 2: Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion – Affecting Mental Health in Workplace

Below are eight strategies that positively affect mental health in the workplace.[2]

Eight workplace strategies to promote mental health:

Eight workplace strategies to promote mental health

  1. Encouraging active employee participation and decision making
  2. Clearly defining employees’ duties and responsibilities
  3. Promoting work-life balance
  4. Encouraging respectful and non-derogatory behaviours
  5. Managing workloads
  6. Allowing continuous learning
  7. Having conflict resolution practices in place
  8. Recognizing employees’ contributions effectively

Similar to mental health promotion in the workplace, the effects of more general workplace health promotion initiatives are broad reaching and can build on each other. Programs focused solely on improving workplace mental health can produce multiple benefits.

Possible benefits of a comprehensive workplace health promotion program include:

Improved: productivity, morale and employee satisfaction, staff retention, staff co-operation, creativity, loyalty to company and recruitment

Reduced: medical leave, staff turnover (and therefore lower recruitment and training costs), workplace injuries and accidents, work time lost, health costs, absenteeism and presenteeism (inability to concentrate at work and to achieve work outcomes)

What is a mentally healthy workplace versus a psychologically healthy workplace?

Psychological injuries are stress-related emotional conditions resulting from real or imagined threats or injuries.

Psychologically healthy workplaces and mentally healthy workplaces are synonymous terms that describe the same high-functioning, respectful and productive workplace. The term “psychologically healthy workplace” is often used in the context of prevention of psychological injury. The term “mentally healthy workplace” is often used within the context of mental health promotion and is often viewed as a strategy used to reduce risk factors for developing mental illness.

As mentioned, environments that follow occupational health and safety legislation and guidelines show respect for the health of its employees. Occupational health and safety guidelines vary by province so it’s important to check industry-specific, jurisdictional guidelines.

Information:

  • Mental Health Works provides information on employer’s duty to accommodate and their need to manage the performance of employees with mental health issues. See www.mentalhealthworks.ca.
  • WorksWell provides information on workplace mental health promotion. See www.ontario.cmha.ca/workswell.
  • Stress at Work, Mental Injury and the Law in Canada is a discussion paper from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. This report provides a detailed overview of the legal regulations facing employers with respect to stress and mental health in the workplace.
Tools:

  • Check Up from the Neck Up is a simple, online, private, mental health check-up. This site provides information on common mood disorders. See www.checkupfromtheneckup.ca.

[1] Workplace Health Promotion Program, “The ABCs of a WHP Programme,” Singapore Government, (2007) http://www.hpb.gov.sg/hpb/default.asp?pg_id=2158 (accessed January 6, 2010).

[2] Workplace Stress Initiative, “The Healthy Workplace…Making it Work,” (2006) http://www.mflohc.mb.ca/stress_initiative_folder/Healthy%20Workplace…Making%20It%20Work.pdf (accessed January 6, 2010).