Traditional safety programs or activities focus on harms to physical health or illnesses caused by exposure to harmful products. There is a growing need to include psycho-social risk factors and incident response to mental health episodes, which became abundantly apparent over the last year or two.
The pandemic has certainly increased the amount of mental health risk factors, however, what it highlighted for many employers was the lack of resources or plans they had in place to manage these challenges.
There is an old saying that adversity does not create a person's or organization's character, it reveals it. COVID-19 definitely showed us where we were already strong while at the same time it lit a bright spotlight on areas where we were in over our heads.
The other factor to consider is that mental health illness or disease lays on a spectrum. On one side someone can have depression or anxiety but have it managed well through medication and lifestyle causing very little disruption to a person's quality of work. On the other side, some people are not so lucky to have the support or tools to manage well or have a severe onset of symptoms that inhibits their activities.
People with mental illness can move along this spectrum depending on their psycho-social circumstances at any given time.
Employers need to start viewing mental health the same way they view any physical health issue. A great analogy is to picture a mental illness such as depression the same way you would view an employee with diabetes.
A person could have diabetes and be completely healthy, they manage it well through their medication, support systems, and lifestyle, they live a healthy life with diabetes. Another person may have poor health with their diabetes requiring different needs.
If a worker is off work due to cancer or serious physical illness or incident the workplace will often acknowledge by sending cards, well wishes, flowers, and when they return they are often greeted with a celebratory welcome back.
Often this is not the case with mental illness which can increase a person's sense of isolation and anxiety about their condition, which in turn can impede their rate of recovery or progress.
Mental health disorders are quite common, 1 in 5 have mental health episodes every year and some manage it very well and others need more support.
A workplace mental health strategy is really what are we doing as employers to support and promote our employee's mental health at work.
There are three steps to developing a mental health strategy for the workplace.
Conduct a needs assessment
Confidential surveys, connect with your HR or benefits provider to determine your benefits and EAP usage, absenteeism, exit interviews, complaints, and turnover to determine if there is a struggle with mental health.
A great resource is https://www.guardingmindsatwork.ca/ for free tools and surveys.
Make a plan using your top 2-3 areas of focus
Based on your needs assessment, what are the top three items that you may be able to assist your people with?
As an example, your survey finds that a good amount of employees have anxiety or elevated levels of stress at work. Is there a way you can reduce those levels through procedure changes, staffing levels, more rest breaks, etc?
If the stress is not work-related, can you provide any additional resources or tools to help people build resilience and a healthier response to stress and anxiety?
Put your champions to work
You may have people in your dealership that are either personally interested in or experienced with mental health issues from analyzing information to being sponsors or mental health spokespeople that your people can reach out to if they are more comfortable reaching out to someone at the same level.
Don't forget if you are a DealerPILOT HR client and subscriber, you have access to Sandra Conrad who is certified in Mental Health First Aid, and Chrissy Cordingley who is a Certified International Health Coach to assist you with any questions or strategic planning in regards to wellness within in the dealership.
Sources used: www.brandypayne.ca/wellnessworks