Do you know?

In any given year, one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness.1

More than 80 per cent of Canadian employers rate mental health problems and illness to be one of the top three drivers for both short-term and long-term disability claims.2

People in their early and prime working years are among the hardest hit by mental health problems and illnesses.2

More than 500,000 Canadians won’t go to work each week because of mental illness.3

More than 30 per cent of disability claims and 70 per cent of disability costs are attributed to mental illness.4

The associated costs for Canadian companies can equate to nearly 14 per cent of their net annual profits and up to $16 billion annually.5

The increasing prevalence of mental illness in Canada may challenge the workplace in many ways. If left unmanaged, employers may experience higher costs associated with mental health.

Improving the management of mental health in the workplace and creating a psychologically safe and healthy work environment may benefit your organization in the following ways:

  • Improved health and wellbeing, productivity, morale and employee satisfaction, staff retention, staff co-operation, creativity, loyalty to company and recruitment.
  • Reduced medical leave, staff turnover (and therefore lower recruitment and training costs), workplace injuries and accidents, work time lost, health costs, absenteeism and presenteeism (inability to concentrate at work and to achieve work outcomes).

Measuring the psychological health of an organization

Data review is a critical first step when considering any wellness initiative, including those aimed to help improve employee mental health. It not only helps to understand if, and where, your organization may have areas of concern, but it also provides a baseline against which you can measure the impact of any wellness initiatives.

Some key areas that may be considered when assessing the impact of mental illness to your organization include:

  • STD and LTD claims volumes and trends (often available from your insurer)
  • Employee and Family Assistance Program utilization reports
  • Employee and customer satisfaction surveys
  • Health Risk Assessments
  • Casual absence (absence rates, number of incidences, durations, patterns)
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)/Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST)/Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) reports
  • Employee turnover rates
  • Grievances or complaints
  • HR exit interviews

A review of your data may provide insight into the true costs of mental illness - whether trends exist with respect to incidence by region, department, or age band, and if workplace culture is playing a role. This type of assessment can help ensure the right strategies and programs are implemented for better outcomes for your organization employees.

Employee engagement surveys

For many employers, running an employee engagement survey has become an annual practice. What you may not realize is that there is potential to use this tool to collect information that may help you understand perceptions regarding employee mental health.

Specifically, questions that align with the 13 psychosocial risk factors identified in the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace will assist you in understanding how employees perceive their environment and the support they have.

The key strengths identified through engagement studies can help you understand what works well with the employee population. For instance, if you learn that a specific method of communication was the most effective for employees, using that model to disperse and collect psychological health-related information could also be effective.

Workplace Psychological Health Gap Assessment Tool

Manulife’s Workplace Psychological Health Gap Assessment Tool may help you assess your organization’s psychological health and safety risks. This free questionnaire is designed as a first step to help you prioritize areas of focus and complements the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ), and CSA Group.

  • 1 Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada. 
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)
  • 3 Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)
  • 4 Workplace mental health articles/resources. Benefits Canada.
  • The Scientific Advisory Committee to The Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health. Mental Health and Substance Use at Work: Perspectives from research and implications for leaders, 2002.