Work­place men­tal health ini­tia­tives im­prove not just em­ploy­ees’ health and hap­pi­ness, but busi­nesses’ bot­tom line, too

Alberta Venture - - The Briefing - BY JENN MEN­TANKO

A pro­duc­tive em­ployee used to be one who could work quickly: They could ham­mer lots of nails, churn out lots of prod­uct, all while never miss­ing a day’s work. Sick days were a lost op­por­tu­nity for a day’s wage and tak­ing a men­tal health day was un­heard of. To­day, strength, stamina and a per­fect at­ten­dance record are not at­tributes we list first on our re­sumés. With au­to­ma­tion and the shift from goods-pro­duc­ing to ser­vice pro­fes­sions, in­tel­lect is num­ber one. A val­ued em­ployee is no longer one with just phys­i­cal prow­ess, but one with re­silience, prob­lem solv­ing skills and in­no­va­tive ideas as well. Ac­cord­ing to Jeff Moat, pres­i­dent of the men­tal health cam­paign Not My­self To­day, “Max­i­miz­ing the po­ten­tial of peo­ple has never been more im­por­tant.”

As brain­power drives busi­ness, it should be ob­vi­ous, then, that the health of this valuable as­set is a top pri­or­ity. But for many or­ga­ni­za­tions, it isn’t – a fact Moat calls “un­ac­cept­able in this day and age.”

“I don’t want to paint a dire pic­ture,” he says, “but it re­ally does de­pend on an or­ga­ni­za­tion. Man­agers should be trained in how to deal with some­one who comes for­ward to dis­close they have a men­tal health prob­lem.” While em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­grams are miles ahead of the in-house al­co­hol treat­ment pro­grams they orig­i­nated from in the 1940s, not all or­ga­ni­za­tions have such plans in place – many don’t have a men­tal health ini­tia­tive at all. Ac­cord­ing to the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion of Canada, this can cost them. This week, 500,000 Cana­di­ans will miss work due to a men­tal health is­sue, mean­ing sig­nif­i­cant losses in productivity. That doesn’t count for pre­sen­teeism in the work­place ei­ther – em­ploy­ees who are phys­i­cally at work, but not men­tally present. In 2011, $6 bil­lion in productivity was lost be­cause of men­tal health is­sues. >

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