Whether it’s a mental health day or a reduced workload, there are a number of ways that employers and employees can deal with workplace stress to the benefit of everyone, a Toronto-based psychologist says.
“Mental health is part of our whole health,” registered psychologist Natasha Williams told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday, “and a lot of times what we do is that we focus so much on our physical health that we tend to negate mental health.”
Referencing a 2012 poll from Ipsos, the Mental Health Commission of Canada says as many as 70 per cent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, while 14 per cent don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all.
Williams says our mental health, especially issues such as anxiety and depression, can lead to reduced productivity and absenteeism. The federal government says 30 per cent of disability claims involve mental health problems and illness.
As Mental Health Week gets underway in Canada, Williams shared some ways that employers in particular could help improve the mental health of their workplaces.
Williams says employers need to ensure that the workplace feels safe enough for employees to disclose any issues and reach out for help if they need it.
“Because a lot of times the stigma is, ‘I feel that I’m going to have a negative reaction if I disclose that I have a mental health issue,'” she said.
“So if I’m not feeling psychologically safe, it’s not going to make any kind of sense to be able to say, ‘You know what, I have a mental health issue, I need to get help.'”
Learning about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as where to get help, can address some of the misinformation that exists about what mental health looks like, Williams says.
Bringing in someone consistently to talk about mental health and educate the workplace will also keep that conversation going so nothing is “swept under the rug,” she added.
“The more that you’re able to be open and have that conversation, the less stigma that you’ll have and the more comfortable that you will feel to talk about … whatever it is that you’re struggling with,” she said.
Workplace stress can make already existing mental health issues worse but Williams says many people don’t feel comfortable disclosing those stressors.
“Employers can actually look at things like how do we look at taking mental health days? How do we reduce the workload? How do we sometimes have some off days where I’m able to say, ‘OK, you know what, I’m not feeling that great, can I either take this day off or reduce my work week and still be productive?'” she said.
“It’s being able to have those dialogues in a safe and comfortable manner so that the employer and the employee have a win-win situation.”
Watch the full interview with Natasha Williams at the top of the article.