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Mental health in the workplace: A collective responsibility

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Employment Law |

Mental health in the workplace is a critical issue that affects both workers and employers. It’s essential to recognize that everyone deserves a safe and positive work environment, and we all have a role to play in fostering this.

When does work become unhealthy?

Work can be a source of fulfilment, but it can also lead to stress and challenges, which can create or exacerbate a person’s mental health.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Long hours and burnout: Employees who work consistently long hours may experience burnout, which is characterized by exhaustion and a lack of enthusiasm for work.
  • Harassment or discrimination: Toxic behaviours can create an environment of fear and anxiety, impacting an individual’s mental health and giving rise to claims against the employer.
  • Lack of support: When employees feel undervalued or unsupported by management, they can experience isolation and stress.

Poor mental health at work can negatively affect people’s physical health, ability to concentrate and motivation. It can also lead to increased absences and health costs, as well as lower productivity and job satisfaction.

Empowering workers and employers to nurture mental health

Workers can protect their mental health on the job in a few ways:

  • Speak up: If you’re struggling, communicate with your employer or HR department and document requests in writing. It’s okay to ask for help.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear work-life boundaries to prevent burnout. For example, in Ontario, there is now a requirement that employers that employ 25 or more employees must have a written policy on disconnecting from work in place for all employees.
  • Seek support: Utilize available resources like employee assistance programs or mental health professionals.

Employers, on the other hand, can supplement these individual efforts in many ways. They can create a supportive environment by:

  • Implementing supportive policies: Develop clear policies that promote mental health awareness and support.
  • Offering health benefits: Encourage employees to seek counselling or therapy services outside of work.
  • Training leaders: Equip managers with the skills to recognize signs of mental distress and to respond appropriately.
  • Accommodating mental health leaves: Handle and triage requests for sick days and mental health leaves in a timely manner, and be prepared to accommodate requests within reason until the point of undue hardship.
  • Promoting a healthy culture: Encourage open dialogue about mental health and provide resources for support.

These measures can have a tremendous impact on workers’ mental health.

Work should never compromise our health or well-being. Both workers and employers have the power to make a difference by prioritizing positive mental health attitudes and solutions.



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