Make mentally healthy workplaces a priority
Responsible employers provide physically safe environments for their workers, but do they also consider their employees’ psychological safety? The Canadian economy loses $50 billion a year to mental illness, affecting about 7.5 million working Canadians. (Canadian Mental Health Association, n.d.) Research consistently demonstrates that mentally healthy workplaces can improve productivity, cut down on absences and increase worker retention. “In short, supporting a safe, supportive and mentally healthy work culture is good for business.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2017) The mental health of workers continues to be an emerging priority for Alberta employers. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) believes supportive workplaces improve employee mental health and reduce mental illness’ financial cost on the economy. (Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta, n.d.)
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has only intensified workplace stress. Thirty-one per cent of Albertans have experienced job-related stress due to the pandemic, and this has impacted organizations across the province. Adopting a person-centred approach to addressing these concerns is important. This approach involves meeting each employee where they are, rather than imposing a solution or prescriptive plan. (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020) You can read CMHA’s full Return to the Workplace Toolkit here for guidance on supporting employee mental health throughout the transition back into workplaces.
Supportive workplaces create healthy environments
When employees deal with mental health issues or workplace harassment and disclose these challenges to their employer, it’s essential they are met with compassion and support. Unfortunately, many people are concerned about risks to job security or facing discrimination. “Being open about harassment can impact a person’s position at a workplace or their ability to find a new job. There are laws to prevent this kind of discrimination, but it can still happen.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, n.d.) A supportive and healthy work environment is formed when the employee and supervisor develop an appropriate solution together, and the employee can continue working while mentally healthy. “Proper leadership practices can make employees more comfortable with disclosing mental health and addictions-related difficulties. Maintaining a workplace culture built on trust, honesty and fairness creates an environment conducive to positive mental health and enables staff to raise concerns with management.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020)
Research demonstrates organizations that implement strategies to achieve a psychologically healthy and safe workplace are, on average, better performers in all key performance categories, from health and safety to key human resource measures to shareholder returns. (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013)
Canadian anti-harassment and violence legislation
The Government of Canada has also continued to build its federal anti-harassment and violence legislation through Bill C-65, which protects Canadian workers in federally regulated workplaces. The new and updated legislation came into effect on January 1, 2021. Bill C-65’s regulations contain elements for responding to workplace harassment and violence, which include:
- Timeframes for resolution to better support the complainant and alleged individual;
- Confidentiality of all parties involved, including witnesses, throughout the investigation;
- Protection for employees victimized by a third party (for example, an employee harassed by a client);
- Employer obligations to implement corrective measures in response to the investigation report of a competent person; and
- Support provided for employees who have experienced workplace harassment and violence.
Learn more about workplace legislation in Alberta at CMHA, Alberta Division’s Working Stronger conference where Sharon Roberts, LLP will speak specifically about Alberta’s new workplace legislation.
Creating mentally healthy workplaces
It’s not easy to create mentally healthy workplaces, and many Albertan employers don’t know where to start. The first thing leaders can do is focus on their individual employees. Adopting a person-centred approach is one of the best ways to encourage a safe and supportive work environment. Next, employers should become familiar with the factors that impact psychological health and safety and work to address these factors in their organization.
Simple ways to get started
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Here are a few simple ways you can get started on improving mental health within your workplace:
- Assess where your organization is by taking the Guarding Minds at Work survey. This is a free resource available to anyone wanting to collect data on their current work environment. The survey provides a starting point for addressing workplace mental health.
- Attend CMHA, Alberta Division’s Working Stronger conference, which brings together the most creative and inspiring mental health thinkers and leaders in the field. The conference features keynote speakers, workshops, panels, presentations, training opportunities and exhibits who will share information and resources that you can take back to your workplace and implement right away.
- Consider sending occupational health and safety leaders, mental health champions, human resource professionals and others in your organization to complete The Certified Psychological Health and Safety Advisor Training. This training will provide your organization with the skills and ability to address employers’ challenges, obstacles and needs related to psychological health and safety.
- Implement the Not Myself Today program, which is an evidence-based, practical solution to transform mental health at work. It helps companies build awareness, reduce stigma and foster safe and supportive cultures through turnkey activities, resources, materials and tools.
Finally, contact the CMHA, Alberta Division workplace mental health team to inquire about other workplace mental health training and resources that could benefit your organization. It’s easy, affordable and CMHA has an array of accessible training and resources available to all levels of your organization. Get started today!
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2017, December 19). Workplace Mental Health. [Webpage]. Retrieved January, 2021, from:
Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta. (n.d.). Workplace Psychological Health & Safety is Important. [Webpage]. Retrieved January, 2021, from:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Mental Illness in the Workplace. [Webpage]. Retrieved January, 2021, from:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020, August 20). Return to Work. [PDF]. Retrieved January, 2021, from:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2013, January 16). The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) applauds the new, higher standard for workplace mental health promotion and protection. [Webpage]. Retrieved January, 2021, from:
CISION. (2020, June 24). Government of Canada publishes new regulations to prevent harassment and violence in federal workplaces. [Webpage]. Retrieved January, 2021, from: