“Unless you have been personally impacted by

mental health issues – you don’t get it”

That has been the unanimous perspective of employees who have suffered these types of issues.  The good news – is that there is a wide-spread movement within organizations to recognize, understand and know how to respond to employees suffering from stress at work.

The workplace has come a long way from the days of command and control, where employees were expected to be stoic, to put up with abusive and bullying coworkers or bosses, to not complain and to just do what needed to be done.  The concept of work-life balance was ridiculed, and employees suffered in silence.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour says:
A psychologically healthy workplace is one that actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways, and promotes psychological well-being.

Some interesting statistics from the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the workplace on what is contributing to the stress of Canadian employees:

  • 54% are frustrated with poor management
  • 47% feel there is not enough management support
  • 43% want more support from senior management and human resources
  • 65% of managers feel they could do their jobs more effectively if they knew how to better manage distressed employees
  • 63% of managers want to receive training on how to deal with this

The Centre also found that this is a workplace issue:

  • There is now consistent evidence that certain work situations, including occupational uncertainty and lack of value and respect in the workplace, are associated with an increased risk of common mental disorders.
  • 47% of working Canadians agree that their work is the most stressful part of their day.
  • 16% of working Canadians say their workplace is a frequent or ongoing source of feelings of depression, anxiety or other mental illness.
  • 6% would not tell their current manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
  • 82% of employees with mental health issues indicate it impacts their work
  • Numerous studies show that employees are more creative and able to achieve higher levels of job performance when they are in mentally healthy work environments.

Why am I writing this?  Because it is rampant.  In every client organization I work with, and almost every employee I coach – mental health is a major issue. It is ok to talk about it and it is ok to respond to it – without judgement and with understanding and compassion.

The workforce is changing rapidly.  New employees do not tolerate unhealthy work environments. Labour laws have changed to accommodate mental distress on the job. Organizations are creating awareness and starting to create cultures that support healthy and safe workplaces – both physically and now psychologically.  It’s long overdue.

Every employee is different in that they bring all of their personal perspectives to their job. These perspectives have been formed long before they came to work, and they are unique to each person’s life experiences.

The range of coping mechanisms that people use at work is quite wide. I’ve seen people simply give up, be a victim and go through the motions of doing their job – being depressed, frustrated and angry.  I have seen others just leave while some will demand change.

It starts with us as individuals – to know our boundaries of what we are prepared to accept or not accept.  How long do we intend to put up with the extended hours we are expected to work, the unreasonable workload, the lack of tools and resources to do our work, the toxic environments created by bosses or co-workers, the lack of opportunity to raise issues and have them resolved.

We have to decide what our priorities are in our lives which includes our personal self-care time, family time, romantic relationship time and of course work. Then we can set boundaries that protect those priorities and not allow one of them to consistently overshadow the others.

You can tell your family that they are a priority, however, if you are always at work or working when you are home, you are giving mixed messages.

Decide what works for you. The look at an organizational culture that supports what you need.

Organizations have a legal and a moral responsibility to ensure their workplaces are in fact healthy and setting their employees up for success.

It is starting to happen now. There are certainly many more sophisticated organizations that have had a healthy culture for years, however, there are many who do not.

Take charge of your mental health by knowing your boundaries and be willing to stand up for them.  Speak up if there is an opportunity to initiate change at your pace of work. Be willing to help your company make the change. 2019 is a brand new year – how will you be different?