For many Canadians, we spend most of our lives at work. Therefore, the quality of a workplace can have a huge impact on our lives, especially mentally. With work usually comes stress which can ultimately lead to mental health issues or illnesses. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), 70% of employees are concerned about their psychological health at work, and 14% do not feel that their mental health is safe at all. The total amount spent on mental health-related problems in the Canadian economy is over $50 billion annually. It’s time to make mental health a conversation in your workplace. Here is what you need to know when creating an open work environment and what you need to understand as an employer when opening your workplace up to the mental health conversation.

Mental illness doesn’t need to be a weakness

Sometimes our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength. For example, a person may be overly sensitive, but this also makes it easier for them to empathize with others. Another person may have a small amount of stress which in some cases can become a helpful motivator to complete tasks in a timely manner. By allowing your workplace to feel open about mental health conversations, you can begin to understand and engage with your employees more. This will then lead to an overall more positive workplace environment. However, only 36% of employees feel comfortable speaking to their employer about mental health issues or illnesses. So, how do you remove the stigma surrounding the mental health conversation?

Employers need to be present

As an employer, it’s important to understand the wellbeing of your employees. Engage with your employees regularly so they feel more comfortable. You want to be approachable, so your employees aren’t afraid to tell you how they’re feeling. If you’re never really engaging in conversation with your staff, it can feel alienating to your employees and make it more difficult for them to open up about how they are feeling or what they’re going through. If you are constantly engaged with your employees, however, you will; understand their work patterns and if you notice a sudden change in their work habits, it will be easier for you to identify if an employee may be experiencing a mental health issue.

The conversation starts with awareness

Give your employees access to different resources available. The more informed they are, the better. Mental health should be treated and understood the same way our physical health is. Offer training to your employees on what mental health is, the different types of mental illnesses or issues, and what to do if you or a co-worker are showing common signs of mental illness. Also, encourage a healthy work-life balance and offer more work options to your employees. Flexible hours, for example, can provide a better work-life balance for those to avoid traffic and commute delays or provide employees with an opportunity to attend medical appointments.

Remember, employee wellbeing is a responsibility of leadership. The more open your workplace is, the more thriving and productive it will be. When you invest in a mental health awareness program for your company, you are creating a more positive and healthy work environment that people will want to work in. Want to learn more about how to engage with your employees more effectively or how to start the mental health conversation in your workplace? At FOCUS Employment Services, we’re your one-stop employment centre. We have the right resources and counsellors to help you get the right information you need to get the conversation started whether you’re an employee or a business owner. Visit our website or stop by one of our employment centres in Alliston or Angus today to learn more.