Shifting Perspectives – Health Promotion at Work

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is the most significant factor in protecting workers’ mental health. It goes hand-in-hand with establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace overall. Workplaces that do not prioritize health and safety—including mental health and well-being—may find that their workers have difficulty remaining mentally well over time.

A Word of Caution About Wellness Promotion

There are numerous ways to support wellness and well-being in the workplace. However, offerings such as wellness seminars and mental health newsletters should never be the core of your workplace well-being strategy. While you absolutely can offer, for example, lunch-and-learns on wellness topics, they must not be the only way you support psychological health and safety. Helping employees to improve their well-being is only one piece of the much bigger puzzle. It should not be the first activity you decide to undertake when building your workplace mental health strategy. When considering how the workplace can assist employees with their well-being, it is important to think beyond the traditional educational-awareness sessions. Instead, look to implement collaborative strategies co-developed with the input of workers.

A Total Worker Well-Being Strategy Focused on Mental Health

What does your organization do to help workers when mental health or other health issues arise? Do you have formalized policies and programs, such as accommodation and return-to-work plans? Do you collaborate with external service providers that offer additional supports?

Many workplaces provide their workers with mental health and addiction supports through external services. This can include everything from informing employees of free community-based resources to enrolling them in a formal Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). These types of resources can certainly be helpful, but the most successful organizations also invest in developing internal mental health policies and programs. Even small businesses can have basic strategies in place to meet the demands of their employees when the need arises.

Need a quick win?

Start the conversation by delivering one or more of these IHSA safety talks:

Key Workplace Employee Support Program Areas

An employee who is struggling with mental or physical health issues (or other concerns) may benefit from an accommodation such as a modified schedule or change in duties. Similarly, a worker who returns following a short- or long-term leave may need extra supports as they ease back into their role.

In both cases, it is important to have written policies that outline procedures, duration, and the expectations and responsibilities of both management and workers—among other things. This ensures any accommodation/return-to-work processes are transparent and fair.

For accommodations and return-to-work procedures when mental health and addictions are a concern, consider the tools found on the employer resources page. They may enable you to better support your supervisors and help improve your current workplace programs.

Mental health first aid/trauma response/overdose response

Just as it is good practice for your employees to take first aid training in case of workplace incidents, so too should they be aware of mental health first aid. Often, this is done through training to provide supervisors and employees with the tools they need to respond to mental health or substance use concerns in the workplace. Training should also offer self-care strategies, to help workers identify emerging mental health problems or cope with issues they may already be experiencing.

To learn more about this concept and find training check out our employer resources page.

Employee wellness/well-being supports

An employee well-being program fosters an organizational culture of good health, including good mental health, by inspiring workers to make small, achievable changes in their daily routines. Tailored to your organization, it helps connect employees to relevant HR programs, benefits, and tools to help them thrive at the workplace and at home.

If you do decide to offer more traditional wellness supports, consider the topics below, but make sure you engage your employees in determining the supports they believe would be most beneficial to them.

  • Emotional intelligence for employees – Training can help managers and workers to better assess their own mental health while communicating more openly and respectfully with each other.
  • Resilience – Strategies to help manage stress and learn from challenges.
  • Work-life balance tips – Making the most of your time away from work is good for the body and mind.
  • Mental health apps – Among other things, apps can provide at-your-fingertips mental health information and the ability to measure how you feel over time, which may help identity issues before they become problems.
  • Mental Health Awareness weekly emails – Sending regular, focused content can reinforce your company’s mental health policies and programs, and remind workers that self-care is health care.