Ensuring Workplace Psychological Safety & Wellness

In order to create a workplace that fosters employee creativity, engagement, accountability, and ultimately high performance, certain conditions must be present, with the fundamental one being a work environment that promotes psychological safety and wellness.

Extensive studies and empirical data review by researchers at Simon Fraser University have identified the following 13 inter-related psychosocial factors that affect workplace mental health and psychological safety.

  1. Psychological Support
  2. Organizational Culture
  3. Clear Leadership & Expectations
  4. Civility & Respect
  5. Psychological Competencies & Requirements
  6. Growth & Development
  7. Recognition & Reward
  8. Involvement & Influence
  9. Workload Management
  10. Engagement
  11. Balance
  12. Psychological Protection
  13. Protection of Physical Safety

As such, workplace mental health and psychological safety strategies covering aspects above have been presented by various sources.[1] [2] [3] Many have also referred to The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard), a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources intended to guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work.

There is in fact no one-size-fits-all strategy or package of solutions that could meet the unique needs of all organizations. However, there are some common actions that could contribute to the improvement of psychological health and safety in most workplaces. Field experts[4] have concluded that strong, effective workplace psychological health and safety outcomes can be achieved through strategies and actions that incorporate all the following aspects:

  1. Prevent harm – eliminate or mitigate work-related factors or hazards that cause psychological harm.
  2. Manage concerns – address workplace psychological and safety concerns and ensure that employees/members get the care they need, regardless of cause.
  3. Promote the Positive – develop work and individual related strengths, capacities, and positive aspects to promote wellness and productivity.

CAMH [5] has outlined a practical workplace psychological health and safety development plan that involves the implementation of the following actions:

  1. Establishing a holistic workplace mental wellness strategy
  2. Ensuring mandatory mental health training for leaders
  3. Developing tailored mental health supports
  4. Optimizing your return-to-work process
  5. Tracking outcomes and building accountabilities

Much of CAMH’s recommended actions are supported by research and informed by experts in the field.

It should be noted that the planning, development, implementation, and continuous delivery of an effective mental wellness strategy will take time, resources, and leadership commitment. As such, if your organization is not yet ready to proceed with a comprehensive plan, it is fine to start off with certain targeted actions. From there, you can increase your efforts over time to build a more comprehensive plan. 

How Insight can help your organization and employees/members

Insight’s Workplace Psychological Injury Prevention and Care Framework is designed with a recognition of the aspects needed for an effective psychological health and safety strategy as well as of the different service needs that would arise as your organization attempts to support their employees/members along the psychological health continuum.

This Framework will support your organization’s full, beginning-to-end progression of efforts to establish and maintain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace:

  • Assessments: If your organization is unsure of the psychological health and safety condition, issues, and risks that may exist within their workplace, Insight can help your organization to assess and determine the organizational/group/individual challenges faced and the corresponding services and support that may be needed.
  • Prevention & Wellness Promotion: Once issues and challenges are clear, Insight can help your organization to design and implement targeted management and employee training as well as psychological injury prevention strategies, plans, programs, policies, and/or process to mitigate psychological hazards and risks, prevent psychological injury as well as promote psychologically wellness and productivity among employees/members.
  • Intervention: For your employees/members who are suffering from psychological illness or difficulties, alcohol/substance dependency, cognitive injury and functional impairment, and/or major life change adjustment difficulties, Insight’s diverse team of therapists with different specializations can provide them with quality, specialized treatment and care, not only to prevent further deterioration of their condition but more importantly, to help them start their recovery and rebuilding process. Insight’s team of over 50 inhouse therapists with a broad range of expertise stand ready to support your employees/members online and in-person at Insight’s six Alberta service centres. In addition, Insight has a robust network of seasoned affiliate therapists across different Canadian cities.
  • Return to Work & Reengagement: Insight can support your leaders in managing cases of employees/members on psychological strain/injury/illness or substance/alcohol dependency leave. In general, the longer an individual is off work, the more difficult it is for them to get back to work. Insight can provide: i) return-to-work psychological assessments to employees/members on leave, ii) case consult or case management support to your leaders who are overseeing psychological disability cases, as well as iii) targeted counselling and treatment to help employees/members on leave deal with their issues and prepare to return to work.

What sort of return can be expected?

Research has shown that there is a strong return on investment (ROI) for organizations that employ targeted and effective strategies, programs, and processes to: 1) mitigate and control workplace psychological risks and hazards, 2) promote and foster psychological wellness and injury prevention, as well as 3) ensure early intervention and support for employees/members with psychological issues, strains, and injuries. Not only can such efforts enhance employees’/members’ wellness and productivity, they can also bring about significant financial returns for the organization:

  • A Deloitte analysis[1] found that for every $1 invested in workplace mental health, the median yearly return for Canadian employers was $1.62, a figure that rises to $2.18 for programs that have been in place for three years or more. Bell reported their 2018 ROI of $4.10 for every dollar they invested in workplace mental health programs – this included a 50% drop in disability relapse and reoccurrence within 8 years.
  • A critical meta-analysis of the literature completed by Health Affairs concluded that “medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on appropriate wellness programs and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.”[2]
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada indicates that if we are able to reduce the number of people experiencing a new mental illness in a given year by 10%, we could, after 10 years of doing so, be saving the Canadian economy at least $4 billion a year.[3]

Financial gains are made through various means including improved productivity; decreased number, frequency, and duration of disability leave, absenteeism, and presenteeism; employee replacement and retraining costs; and other returns. Aside from financial gains, psychological injury prevention and early intervention programs have also shown to[4]:

  • Improve retention rates as employees are able to access mental health support while working or on-leave and thus decreasing voluntary turnover.
  • Improve talent attraction as the organization’s brand as a psychologically safe and healthy workplace becomes more well known.
  • Improve employees’ attitude toward mental illness and increase their willingness to identify and support those with mental health issues.
  • Improve risk mitigation as employees are held more accountable for their actions and for creating a mutually safe and healthy work environment.

Contact Insight Psychological today to learn more.

[1] Deloitte Insights (2019). The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business. Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/about-deloitte/ca-en-about-blueprint-for-workplace-mental-health-final-aoda.pdf

[2] Health Affairs (2010). Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Retrieved from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0626

[3] Ibid. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2016). Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada.

[4] Ibid. Deloitte Insights (2019). The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business.

[1] Sklar Wilton & Associates (2019). Trust as the foundation for mentally healthy workplaces: A guide for employers. Retrieved from: https://www.sklarwilton.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Trust-as-the-Foundation-for-Mentally-Healthy-Workplaces-A-guide-for-employers-HEADWAY-HEALTHY-MINDS.pdf

[2] Ibid. Morneau Shepell (2018). Understanding mental health, mental illness, and their impacts in the workplace.

[3] CAMH (2020). Workplace mental health – A review and recommendations. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/workplace-mental-health/workplacementalhealth-a-review-and-recommendations-pdf.pdf?la=en&hash=5B04D442283C004D0FF4A05E3662F39022268149

[4] LaMontagne, A.D., Martin, A., Page, K.M., Reavley, N.J., Noblet, A.J., Milner, A.J., Keegel, T. & Smith, P.M. (2014). Workplace mental health: Developing an integrated intervention approach, BMC Psychiatry 14. Retrieved from: https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-14-131

[5] Ibid. CAMH (2020). Workplace mental health – A review and recommendations.