Everyone deserves to work in a psychologically safe and healthy workplace. A psychologically healthy workplace is defined by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) as one “that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways”. As this definition highlights, a psychologically healthy workplace promotes the mental health of staff as well as protects employees when their state is fragile or compromised.
Why Focus on Psychological Health and Safety?
According to the MHCC, the total cost of mental health issues to the Canadian economy exceeds $50 billion annually; in 2011, mental health problems among working adults cost Canadian employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover.
The MHCC further reports that 70% of employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplaces. In polls, two-thirds of employees reported that work has a significant impact on their stress levels. In fact, it is estimated that mental health issues cost $51 billion per year in health services use, work loss, and reduced quality of life.
In a robust and competitive economy, attraction and retention of staff who will be committed to your organization is affected by the psychological health of your organization (i.e., the working conditions the organization offers, its employment practices, and its place in relation to what competing organizations offer within their workplaces).
The bottom line is that creating and sustaining a psychologically healthy workplace will impact your bottom line.
What Can Leaders do to Promote Psychological Health and Safety?
In a 2011 survey, the Conference Board of Canada found that while 82% of senior executives stated that their company promoted a mentally healthy work environment, only 30% of the employees surveyed believed that to be the case.
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests organizations can create a workplace that fosters employee health and wellbeing while enhancing organizational performance and productivity by incorporating the following five key practices.
- Employee involvement: Empowering employees by involving them in decision making and offering job autonomy builds ownership and accountability at work and improves morale, motivation, and job satisfaction.
- Work-life balance: Offering employees flexible work schedules or benefits and resources to help manage personal and professional demands can help them better manage multiple demands of work and family, and reduce stress and burnout.
- Employee growth and development: Providing opportunities for continuing personal and professional development can enhance quality of work and customer service while improving employee morale and commitment.
- Employee recognition: Rewarding employees through both tangible rewards and meaningful expressions of thanks can increase engagement and improve employee retention and loyalty.
- Health and safety: Providing benefits that help employees optimize their physical and mental health will decrease health risks, reduce health care benefit costs, and improve job commitment and productivity.
If your organization has successfully incorporated these practices and is fostering employee health and wellbeing, you can be recognized for you efforts by applying for the annual Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards at https://www.apaexcellence.org/awards/
You can learn more about what your organization can do to foster a psychologically healthy workplace at APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence: https://www.apaexcellence.org/resources/, or visit the MHCC’s website at http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/resources.
Colleen Lucas, PhD
Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada; Mental Health Commission of Canada. http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2016-06/Investing_in_Mental_Health_FINAL_Version_ENG.pdf
Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Perspectives of Canadian Workers and Front-Line Managers; Conference Board of Canada. http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=4287