HR and the Happy Workplace
Physical and Mental Health Solutions For Today’s Modern Employers
(HRD) - Happy, healthy, well-adjusted employees are an essential part of best business practises in the new millennium. Caring about the well-being of your staff is not only a moral imperative for modern companies but makes sound economic sense in the long run. Workers struggling with issues of the body and mind are far less productive when on the job and far more likely to not show up at all. Paying attention to your employees' personal challenges pays dividends in many ways, including:
- Better morale
- Reduced negative inter-personnel issues.
- Lower turnover from increased job satisfaction.
- Significantly decreased absenteeism and low-performance 'presenteeism'.
- A safer workplace, as employees are fully engaged in their tasks.
The Costs of Doing Nothing
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, almost a full third of all disability claims in this country stem from mental illnesses and other psychological issues. A quarter of the population of working Canadians will experience a non-physical disorder in an average year and that level of affliction costs industry an estimated $20 billion in lost productivity and associated costs.
The Risks of Doing Nothing
Besides the hit to your bottom line that disability claims can cost you, there are other even more serious issues attached to ignoring the mental health needs of your staff. As the Mental Health Commission in Canada has pointed out in their 2012 seminal report regarding the issue, employers have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace environment for both the physical and mental health aspects of their workforce. Failure to provide a healthy workplace can result in expensive litigation or worse, a major negative PR incident if one of your employees suffers a breakdown that hits the national media. Don't think it can't happen as no business is immune from this threat, particularly if they have ignored the mental health of their staff.
So What Can We Do About It?
Acknowledging the responsibility employers have in providing a mental health-friendly workplace and implementing programs to deal with that aspect of your staff, goes a long way to demonstrating due diligence in the legal landscape. Some of the programs you may wish to develop could include:
- Making mental health a common topic during staff meetings and communications. - This is imperative for normalizing mental health concerns and brining this facet of your workers out of the shadows. Having a mental health issue should not be seen as being any more negative than having a physical ailment. You can't help your workers if problems remain hidden due to shame.
- Having HR staff in place who understands their responsibilities in maintaining worker health. - Ensure they are adequately trained to provide "mental health first aid' so they will be prepared to take action should a breakdown occur on the job.
- Making sure your HR department is knowledgeable about identifying possible mental health issues. - It is as important to be aware of who your employees really are as individuals, as much as it is being familiar with the supports and programs available to those in need.
- Having free counseling available for workers in crisis is an essential element of your benefits package.- The cost to the company is well worth the value to your workers and may save you from pricy, time-consuming litigation that could result from a crisis event.
- Making employee morale an ongoing priority. - It is far too important to be left to chance. Worker morale isn't just a nice thing to do but is a vital aspect to the most successful companies' operations.
- Respecting the confidentiality of those that are identified as being at risk. - These people need support, not shunning. The dividend will be greater engagement by the employee with the company and increased loyalty.
There is no substitute for practicing due diligence in the area of employee mental health. To learn best practices, check out the report "Changing Directions, Changing Lives; The Mental Health Strategy for Canada found here. It is also recommended that your HR staff consult with their industry peers through their professional associations such as the Human Resources Institute of Alberta which can be found here.