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Managing Employee Mental Health

Managing Employee Mental Health

As a supervisor, it is not your responsibility to play doctor or psychiatrist to your employees. That said, the work environment you create will greatly affect your employees’ lives – primarily, their mental and physical health.

Canadian employers need to care about the mental health of their employees. Why?

In addition to lost productivity and increased health care costs, working relationships suffer, creativity and innovative thinking diminishes, errors increase, and even legal cases surface.

An astonishing one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in his/her lifetime. Mental illnesses range from burnout and stress, to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, clearly a wide spectrum, but with similar consequences for the organization. The loss in productivity and increase health care expenditures alone costs the Canadian economy at least 14.4 billion per year.

As a supervisor, you can be proactive in creating an employee-friendly environment. Some tips include:

  • Create an atmosphere of fairness and respect.
  • Promote wellness through healthy living choices and stress management programs
  • Communicate with your employees in a comfortable work culture.
  • Be clear about your expectations about their behaviour and performance.
  • Look to employees for input in decision-making.
  • Allow flexibility so that employees are better able to balance their lives.
  • Help manage workloads.
  • Provide opportunities for professional growth and advancement.
  • Be the best role model you can be.
  • Be educated about mental health issues.

No, you’re not a doctor… nor is it up to you to diagnose mental health problems. However, there are some signs that one of your employees could be struggling with a mental health issue. Consider these questions:

  • Does he/she frequently arrive late?
  • Is he/she frequently absent?
  • Has his/her productivity decreased?
  • Is he/she unable to cooperate or work with his colleages?
  • Does he/she complain of fatigue?
  • Does he/she have difficulty concentrating or remembering things?
  • Does he/she appear disinterested?
  • Does he/she have trouble meeting deadlines?
  • Does he/she seem to act “out of character”?

You can help. If you notice signs of mental health problems, speak to your employee in confidence. Address your observations with him, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Be empathetic and open-minded. Before you speak with him, make sure you know what your company’s policies are for flexible hours, decreased workload, counselling or stress management courses, or any employee assistance programs, so that you are better equipped with some knowledgeable and helpful advice.

Source: The Conference Board of Canada: What You Need to Know About Mental Health