Every week, nearly 500,000 Canadians miss work due to mental health problems or illnesses, costing the economy in excess of $51 billion annually. In order to remain competitive, businesses need to focus inwards and begin investing in and improving how they navigate mental health in their workplace.
With most adults spending more of their waking hours at work and with one in five Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or illness, addressing the issue of mental health at work is vitally important for all people in Canada — especially employers. Mentally healthy workforces perform better and create opportunities that allow for inclusive growth for all sections of society, which is why the Canadian Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to launch 338 Conversations in February.
338 Conversations is a call to action for all 338 members of parliament to join forces with local chambers of commerce to promote workplace mental health and encourage the business community to take the steps needed to ensure the mental well-being of their workers.
“Addressing the challenges around mental health in the workplace makes for more productive businesses, up to a 30% boost in productivity in some cases. All businesses can, and should, get behind this important initiative. That’s why the Canadian Chamber of Commerce will be implementing the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace,” said Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses have the ability to help shape a healthier and more competitive Canada, but in order to move forward, we must acknowledge that mental health plays an important role in our ability to achieve economic success. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce not only talks the talk, but walks the walk on mental health. It has taken simple steps to building a more mentally healthy workplace by enrolling in an employee and family assistance program, developing a psychological health and safety policy, having all employees complete mental health training, providing staff with flexible hours and the ability to work remotely. All of the Canadian chamber’s locations are secured offices with natural lighting and quiet spaces. Its headquarters in Ottawa also features an employee wellness room.
It is not only socially responsible for businesses to prioritize a mentally healthy workplace, but also fiscally responsible, all while promoting employee retention. As the leading cause of short- and long-term disability in Canada, mental health takes a substantial toll on Canadian workplaces. The longer an employee is absent from work, the higher chance there is for an unsuccessful integration back into the workplace. Businesses must prioritize adopting best practices for workplace mental health in order to mitigate the risk of losing their employees. A low employee turnover heightens a business’ financial performance over time. Additionally, a workplace that champions good mental health makes employees more productive and assists in the recruitment of new workers.
Canadians deserve to feel happy, comfortable and understood in their place of employment. It is up the business community to take the important steps needed to help end the stigma around mental illness because when employees succeed, businesses succeed, and that is what makes a stronger Canada.