Mentally Healthy Workplace
Mentally Healthy Workplace

You have decided to develop a strategy in your workplace specific to mental health.  Congratulations! That is an important decision and one that is likely to benefit your organization and the individuals who are part of it; after all, it’s all the same, right?

You may have even already determined that there are loads of resources available to provide you with the information and tools you need to develop and carry out your strategy, as well many service companies who you can hire to assist. However, the plethora of resources can be overwhelming. What I suggest is that you first plan your project using the following strategy that is supported by evidence of what is effective. An effective approach will integrate all support, programs, and resources so that they work together.

An effective approach includes three components: health promotion, health and safety, and return to work processes. Each of these components is critical to your success. For example, if you have a superb health promotion program, but do not have an effective return to work strategy, you may be missing the opportunity to return employees to work earlier and with more success.  Your health promotion and return to work processes are incomplete if they don’t meet the requirements of occupational health and safety regulation.

Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health (World Health Organization). In the workplace these activities can include any of the following:

  • Education and training on healthy behaviours, such as sleep hygiene, diet, exercise, stress management, resiliency and coping.
  • Incentive programs for healthy behavior, such as fitness program rebates, access to good food at work, walking programs, flu shot programs Psycho-social risk assessments and resulting adjustments
  • Policies that allow for flex time, family care days, to create an improved work culture
  • Access to health risk assessments and funding to address any identified risks

Health and safety initiatives are meant to provide a work environment that not only promotes psychological well-being, but also actively works to identify risks and protect workers from those risks. These may include:

  • OCC health and safety investigation processes
  • OH&S committee agenda for mental health
  • Work organization and management processes that provide sufficient control and support for high demand work roles
  • Psycho-social risk assessments and resulting adjustments
  • Worker included reviews of policy and work environment
  • Clear policy that outlines expectations of full support and encouragement of vulnerable employees (those who have been injured require more support), and penalizes if contravened

Return to work procedures and policies are specific to mental health needs, and help employees return to work earlier and with more success. They may include:

  • Policy and procedures for different roles of workplace parties, such as human resources, supervisor, employee, union rep statement of intention to keep employees at work if at all possible through actively seeking accommodation, such as part time work or duties
  • Statements of intention to keep employees at work if at all possible through actively seeking accommodation such as part time work or duties
  • Case management by qualified rehab or RTW coordinator (a specialized skill set worth investing in)
  • Education for the workforce around importance of return to work and stay at work initiatives specific for mental health
  • Privacy policy and behavioural support for confidentiality around mental health of employees

It is helpful to take stock of processes, resources, and knowledge you already have within your organization. Often, there are pre-existing elements of a mental health support system operating independently through different departments or processes in your organization. When you start to compile these resources, you are likely to find things you didn’t realize were relevant, and you can connect these resources and people together for a more effective mental health support system.

If you’re wanting to create a strategy that will work for you and your employees, that will integrate all the support, programs, and resources you have access to, but you don’t know how, you can reach out to me personally and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction. Also, read more about personal health.

What resources do you have that could be working for you, if you created a better strategy for them?


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.