Nine Proven Ways to Improve Workplace Psychological Health

28 July 2017

As a result of a three year long study, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (“MHCC”) has distilled their findings into nine key recommendations for organisations seeking to implement a workplace mental health standard.

In the study, the MHCC gauged the progress of more than 40 Canadian organisations that first implemented the National Standard, Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (2014) (“the Standard”) – a voluntary standard developed by the Canadian CSA group to enable psychologically safe and healthy working environments for employees.

The Standard is often pointed to as the go-to international guide for preventing work-related psychological injuries and improving mental health.

The MHCC’s findings describe nine “promising practices” adopted by participating organisations:

  1. Defining a business case for improving mental health and safety

    The justification of any investment in this field required a clear indication of its intended benefits. These would often include considerations such as increases in employee productivity, reductions in the number of sick days and workplace disputes.

    This being said, few organisations, according to the report, were able to quantify the cost or savings of implementation.

  2. Ensuring commitment throughout the organisation

    Organisations that demonstrated the greatest implementation success typically had representatives who were actively and visibly involved throughout the execution.

  3. Ensuring communication is “wide and effective”

    A key implementation practice that was identified was ensuring that employees had the opportunity to communicate their satisfaction or dissatisfaction across the organisation’s structural hierarchy.

    As part of this, the report indicated that it was essential that employees be kept informed as to the rationale behind the implementation of the Standard and its potential benefits.

  4. Building an organisational psychological health and safety culture

    Another key recommendation was, for lack of a better term, ensuring that organisations put their money where their mouth is.

    The success of implementation depended entirely on the level of sincerity showed by organisations. Those most likely to experience success were those who demonstrated a “shared and enduring belief in, and commitment to” protecting mental wellbeing and safety.

  5. Ensuring adequate resources are available

    As with number 4, it was crucial that organisations made sure to allocate not only funding but time for key personnel to implement the Standard. In the words of the report:

    “At a minimum, it is suggested that organisations identify a particular person within the organisation who is responsible for implementation, ensure that they have time set aside for this task and access to information and funds.”

  6. Selecting the “best actions”

    Tailoring programs, practices, policies to the idiosyncratic practices and functions of the organisation helped to establish clear protocols for identifying risk. This was particularly true where organisations identified common ‘trigger points’ for psychological risk, and were able to construct methods of handling that risk that fit into the greater context of the business.

  7. Determining if the organisation is ready

    According to the study, many organisations failed to take into account the impact that a change to an organisation might have on an employee’s mental wellbeing. In many participating organisations, psychological health and safety weren’t well integrated into the change processes, creating a barrier to implementation.

  8. Measuring the implementation’s impact

    As with number 1, quantifying the impact of the implementation of the Standard was crucial to evaluating the effect it had on the workplace.

    Given the various nips and tucks necessary to ensure ongoing effectiveness of the Standard, a targeted evaluation strategy allowed for the quantification of success, as well as the quick identification of areas that might require change.

  9. Ensuring achievements are maintained over time

    As with work functions, ensuring that the structures and training necessary to maintain the Standard’s successes were in place allowed organisations to enjoy greater, and longer lasting, improvements to employees’ mental health.