Is your company a psychologically safe and mentally healthy place to work? It is your legal responsibility, whether you know it or not.
Many employers invest heavily to remain enlightened and advance in their management of their organizations, applying all the latest management science, and wisdom to demonstrate transformational leadership, to innovate in their offerings and marketing, to lever technology the needs of tomorrow’s markets and workforce.
As well, for a long time Workplace Health and Safety have long been “Job 1” for all employers. The laws are clear and rigidly enforced. Physical injuries on the job are an employers and an employee’s worst nightmare, and the need to have a pro-active and formal safety management system has been clearly understood for many years. But somehow such “safety” concerns have largely looked away from mental health and psychological safety until recently. Such areas have almost been regarded as mysterious, uncomfortable and “taboo”
Most business leaders are not medical or psychiatric professionals, and while they engage heavily in behaviour influence, the area of “mental health” has historically been seen as a field outside the purview of management responsibility. The traditional view has been that employees with mental problems should not be hired in the first place, but once hired, if they suffer from such problems, they should get help of their own volition, (and the company may even be willing to pay for part of the help they get if O.H.I.P. doesn’t cover it). After all, shouldn’t medical /psychological care be left to the professionals?
Well, yes and no! Non-medical professionals should stay away from engaging in the work of medical professionals.
But employers must bear responsibility for preventing employees from developing mental disorders at work due to workplace factors, so they need to have a basic understanding of mental health issues, and they need to establish a psychologically safe work environment.
The opportunities for improving performance, productivity and the bottom line in one’s business by improving mental health in the workplace have long been researched and proven in many parts of the world. The “train” of dealing with mental illness at work is rapidly accelerating, and employers will be well advised to “get on board” sooner than later.
Partly because the legislators and government agencies are stoking the engine!
It is increasingly being seen by the courts and as an employer’s responsibility to establish and maintain a psychologically safe workplace. It is no longer enough to simply provide benefit plans that offer Employee Assistance, and cover treatment costs for mental disorders. It is now encumbent upon employers to proactively establish a Psychological Health and Safety Management System that safeguards the mental health of employees from unacceptable environmental factors such as harassment, bullying, overwork, excessive stress, unfair treatment, discrimination, intimidation, physical danger and other nasty influences.
Legal Pressure – See for yourself..!
Useful articles authored by (Dr.) Martin Shain, S.J.D., of the University of Toronto, include “Tracking the Perfect Legal Storm”, which is an extensive review of the legal aspects of employer responsibilities and liabilities to protect employees from mental damage being done to them in the workplace; “Weathering the Perfect Legal Storm” is analysis and commentary about the same subject matter; and “Weathering the Perfect Legal Storm – A Bird’s Eye View” provides a high level overview of the latter.
If you review this information you will very likely agree it is urgent and important that employers get involved and get moving in managing mental health in the workplace!
Helpful Resources Available
The good news is that there are a lot of great resources and help available for employers to get going.
1) The Canadian Mental Health Association website, http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/ offers a lot of information to help an employer understand the nature of mental illnesses, and the approaches for proactive management in the workplace.
2) “Mental Health Works”, a project of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, also has a very helpful website at http://www.mentalhealthworks.ca/ , which provides some great guidance about identifying and dealing with mental health challenges in the workplace.
3) “Guarding Minds at Work” is an organization that provides a comprehensive variety of surveys and tools for employers to self-assess, determine action plans, and evaluate the effectiveness of their mental health management. Their site is at http://www.guardingmindsatwork.ca. ….Definitely check this site out!
4) The Mental Health Commission of Canada commissioned the creation of the Canadian National Standard on “Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace” – CAN/CSA-Z1003/BNQ 9700-803-2013. It is available free at http://www.csagroup.org/documents/codes-and-standards/publications/CAN_CSA-Z1003-13_BNQ_9700-803_2013_EN.pdf
5) A comprehensive reference entitled “Time to Step Up”, prepared by the Employer Leadership Councils of York Region and Bradford-West Gwillimbury is available by email at www.wpboard.ca
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