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Foundations for Mental Wellness

 Foundations for Mental Wellness


There are a lot of tools, programs and initiatives aimed at bringing awareness to, and improving the state of, mental wellness in the workplace. From comprehensive apps like Calm to mental health certification programs, to nationwide campaigns like Bell’s Let’s Talk, mental health is recognized as a key driver of a successful and productive workplace. And the Best WorkplacesTM for Mental Wellness understand the importance of promoting mental health and they engage in a wide range of programs aimed at that goal.

Some mental health best practices we see include:

• Increases to mental wellness benefit coverage
• Expanded remote and flexible work options
• Mental health training for everyone, not just people managers
• Mental health awareness days and events
• Increased accommodations and disability benefits for people dealing with mental health issues
• Perks and programs that promote work-life balance (i.e., meditation rooms, paid personal days, and subsidized gym memberships)

Each organization delivers programs that meet the unique needs of their people, and they understand the relationship between mental health investment and long-term employee satisfaction. What they also understand is that despite the specific programs, perks and benefits they offer, what underpins their mental wellness activities are three key principles: Fairness, Respect and Credibility. When these are present mental wellness thrives.

Fundamentally, people want to be treated fairly. Whether that means being free of any form of discrimination or not feeling judged, knowing that the workplace supports fair and reasonable practices feels secure and comforting. What that means for employers is a heightened awareness of what promotes fairness and what detracts from it:

• What influence, if any, do different backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets have with the way people are treated?
• Does favouritism or politics play a role in decision making?
• Are you open and transparent with people?
• Is conflict managed objectively?
• What role does empathy play within your systems and policies?

Employees at the Best WorkplacesTM for Mental Wellness believe people at their organizations avoid politicking and backstabbing (94%); they say they are treated as a full member of the organization regardless of their position (94%) and they believe that if they are treated unfairly, they will be given a fair shake if they appeal (93%). These people are secure in the knowledge that they will be treated as individuals with inherent value thus reducing psychological stress related to perceptions of unfairness.

People take being respected for granted – it’s a common human courtesy. But when respect is missing, it is glaringly obvious and extremely discomfiting and dissatisfying. Feeling disrespected at work can lead to a myriad of mental health issues from the toxicity it creates. To avoid these stressors, organizational policy and practice should be assessed from a ‘respect lens’.

• Are communications generally polite and courteous?
• Is work delegated based on time, workload, and individual strengths/interests?
• Can people express themselves and share their ideas confidently?
• Are new ideas and different opinions encouraged, implemented and judged fairly?
• Is disrespectful and dismissive behaviour (verbal and nonverbal) noticed and dealt with swiftly?
• Are there channels for discussing issues and providing feedback?

Respectful practices are commonplace at the Best WorkplacesTM for Mental Wellness where an average of 94% of employees agree that management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas, 93% say that management shows a sincere interest in them as a person, not just an employee, and 93% affirm that people who try new and better ways of doing things are celebrated regardless of the outcome. Respect is a thread that runs through these cultures creating a safe and secure workplace.

When people feel trusted, they also feel secure. And management practices that reaffirm trust in people directly contribute to a feeling of mental safety. Organizations that are trustworthy and that demonstrate trust in their employees naturally elicit more production, better ideas, higher morale, and improved mental wellness. Establishing credibility within the workplace means thinking about the following:

• Are people free to make decisions and supported when things go wrong?
• Is performance noticed, appreciated and rewarded?
• Are pathways to greater responsibility made clear and facilitated?
• Is senior management accessible, open, and honest?
• Can people discuss issues easily and with a variety of people as needed?
• Are people empowered to achieve results versus put in time?

When it comes to mental wellness, establishing credibility within and between all employees is vital. And here again, the Best WorkplacesTM exhibit these behaviours consistently with employees feeling they are given lots of responsibility (94%) and that managers aren’t watching over their shoulders (93%). As well 93% believe management is approachable and easy to talk to.

The Bottom Line
Mental health and wellness is vital to organizational health and performance. Developing strong mental health practices underscores the importance of valuing people both within the context of the work they do, and their roles within society. Attending to the foundations that support fairness, respect and trustworthiness will lead to immeasurable business benefits and will assist you in assembling a collection of mental health policies and practices that specifically address the needs of your people, because good mental health is good business.

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Nancy Fonseca
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