Sensitivity grows for workplace mental illness

Every week, half a million workers in Canada call in sick because of mental health problems.

This can run the gamut from anxiety and depression that workers carry with them from their lives outside work to conditions caused or worsened by the workplace.

Then there’s the problem of “presenteeism.” The opposite of absenteeism, it’s when people show up for work but, because of mental health problems, are not fully engaged in the job at hand. This gets in the way of productivity.

Yet managers and workplace experts aren’t just talking about mental health for purely business reasons.

In a survey of companies, “one of the key pieces of information that came out is that employers have a strong interest in doing the right thing. Nobody wants to come to work and make their staff miserable,” said Louise Bradley, chief executive officer of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Yet, even in the most cut-throat business terms, removing stigma and creating a more empathetic workplace allows for more effective, individual solutions, Ms. Bradley said.

For instance, no two workers would recover exactly the same from a physical injury, say, an accident requiring back surgery. Similarly, no two workers recover in the same way from mental trauma.

What this then requires is a more individualized approach and more accommodating policies for helping the employee return to work. The person with the back injury may need an ergonomic chair. But “if I have depression, very few places have an accommodation policy for that. And yet we know that the longer somebody is off work, the less chance that they will actually return in a timely way, if at all,” Ms. Bradley said.

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail, read the full article here.

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