Hand holding green paper cut happy smile face on green background
Hand holding green paper cut happy smile face on green background

Over the last few years, mental health in workplace has received considerable attention, and that’s a great thing! Any attention paid to this important topic provides an opportunity for change.

Mental Health in the Workplace Canada

There are many resources and tools for employers to improve policy and practices that relate to workplace mental health, and psycho-social climate.  However, despite the many resources available for employers, some workplaces have not yet adopted mental health promotion and prevention.  So, what do you do when the mental health culture is poor in your workplace?

From The Perspective of an Employee

If you are an employee who doesn’t have a leadership role, it can be intimidating to recognize that mental health in your workplace isn’t managed well or that the workplace culture is one of silence around the topic of mental health. This can be particularly troubling if you see that your co-workers are struggling or if you yourself are struggling and don’t feel supported in your workplace.

An employee once told me, “We don’t have anyone with mental health issues at my workplace.”  This is very unlikely given the statistic that 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health problems.

After some discussion, the employee revealed that if someone showed signs of stress, they left the workplace on “stress leave” and didn’t return.  Unfortunately, this is a common but troubling scenario and suggests that the culture around mental health in that workplace may not be healthy.

How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace as an Employee?

For many, this scenario pushes mental health experiences underground and creates fear of seeking help.  It also makes it difficult to speak out.  If that is true for your workplace, and you don’t see signs of change from the organizational leaders, there are things you can do to improve mental health in the workplace.

Here are some workplace strategies for mental health that you can do to protect yourself and to improve your workplace:

  1. Own it!  Acknowledging the reality in your workplace can create a powerful shift in your perspective.  Make a conscious effort to view the goings on in your workplace through a lens of acceptance that things aren’t perfect.  You may realize that there are others struggling in your workplace, too, and you may start to identify interactions and conversations that aren’t healthy.   Remember that everyone is affected by the culture, including you.  Is it possible that you have contributed to the culture through your own actions?  By owning your role in the workplace culture, you can recognize opportunities to contribute differently and change things a bit at a time.
  2. Skill up! Managing stress and coping in a negative environment requires skills and practice.  Seek out these skills so you can look after your own mental health.  Find out if your workplace offers online stress management training or other resources such as meditation through your extended health program or employee assistance program.  If you prefer to read, go online and check out the recommended resources through mental health websites like the Canadian Mental Health Association or the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety. Learn more about managing stress in the COVID workshop.
  3. Charge up!  Support your own mental health through healthy eating, physical exercise, and enough sleep.  Physical health care is good medicine for your mental health.
  4. Build your own support network.  Social support is a key ingredient to staying healthy and managing stress.  Make a list of people in your life who provide good emotional support.  Ask for help; let them know that you may need some extra help to manage your work environment, and be specific about your needs.  That means asking for someone to listen if that’s what you need or to go with you for a brisk walk daily at lunch if that’s what is helpful for you.
  5. Give support!  If you are feeling stressed and uncomfortable in your work environment, there may be others who do as well.  Watch for opportunities to offer support to coworkers who may be struggling.  Ask them if they are okay, and offer to help in a way that makes a difference for them.  You can become part of a supportive workplace culture by modelling supportive behaviour.
  6. Speak up!  If you hear others speaking poorly or incorrectly about mental health, offer a neutral and informed comment.  Be part of positive conversations that can influence the mental health dialogue in your workplace.  Look for opportunities to share information, such as asking for education about mental health at your workplace. You can also join the Occupational Health and Safety Committee and suggest that mental health be part of their meeting agenda.

Read Also: Psychological Health and Safety Means More Than “No Bullying”

Wrapping Up

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a collective effort that requires active participation from everyone in the organization. Employees can make a significant impact by fostering an environment of open communication, supporting their colleagues, and practicing self-care. By recognizing the signs of mental health issues and offering a supportive hand, you contribute to a culture of empathy and understanding. Encouraging a balanced workload, taking regular breaks, and promoting wellness initiatives such as mental health workshops are simple yet effective steps that can enhance overall mental well-being.

For setting up workshops that help you to improve mental health in the workplace, connect with us today.

Organizational leaders have a significant role in setting and changing culture but don’t wait for someone else to make a move to improve the culture in your workplace.  You have a role, too, and you can make a difference to someone else.  Try it; maybe you will be the impetus for change!

Diana Vissers is the Founder and Director of Corporate Services at Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. – a Canadian company providing expert disability management services to Canadian customers. She is in the business of making your place of business healthy, safe and productive. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest news and updates on health, wellness and integrated disability management.