We believe that if you change the workplace you can change the world. However, there are many barriers standing in the way of that being a reality. Mental illness and a lack of psychological safety is one barrier that the workplace is presently trying to figure out. 

As we have been talking to people and businesses around the topic of psychological safety, here is what we have been hearing:

We don’t want to open pandora’s box

Mental wellness in the workplace is a pandora’s box. There is much fear of what will happen in a workplace if the box is open. Will everyone all of a sudden request to take a stress leave? Will productivity go down? How do we manage mental wellness and who’s responsibility is it to enhance wellness? Individual or corporate?

It is unknown territory that many companies are fearful of. The truth however is, pandora’s box is already cracked open. HOW we open it is going to be important. It will take vulnerability and bravery in every company and individual working in that company. 

We already have an EAP program

EAP programs are good and we need to continue and strengthen these programs. However, the design of an EAP is to focus on individual mental health and wellbeing. Our theory is that even if an individual’s mental HEALTH is solid, what if that person enters in to a toxic workplace? What if their work environment is what is affecting their mental health in a negative way? The problem sometimes is healthy people end up in unhealthy workplaces that destroy them. The very culture of the organization has to support psychological safety in the workplace. 

According to our guests at our recent luncheon, we need accommodation for mental health in the workplace. Stress at work and home can’t be ignored. We have employees struggling with hidden addictions to cope, people dealing with grief and loss. Many EAP programs are under utilized. There’s a need for suicide awareness and prevention. Many echoed the same sentiments, “The focus needs to be on mental healthiness not just on mental health problems.” This means we need to go beyond workshops on diversity, inclusion, and respect and learn how to create an ecosystem of health and psychological safety overall. Diversity, inclusion, and respect will naturally follow.

I don’t think I can take it anymore

This is what we have been hearing from employees: 

I don’t know how to share my struggles or ask for support.

I don’t know how to take my mask off and go beyond common answers regarding how I’m doing to, “I’m good.” or “I’m fine.”

I’m worried if I open up about my mental struggles I will be judged, ostracized or let go.

I feel like I’m the only one going through this.

I feel alone and isolated.

I just need to suck it up and not let it get to me.

I want to be authentic but how? I just end up bottling my feelings up and avoid reaching out.

My company is more aware of the importance of mental wellness but doesn’t know practical things they can do to help.

How do I support someone who pours out their heart at the coffee machine and I have a stack of work to do?

How do we communicate about these issues? 

How do we work through cultural differences and biases?

How does the HR department properly deal with these issues? I was told to go home when I was grieving the loss of my mother. I didn’t want to go home where I felt alone and isolated.

Let’s just burn the whole system down!

Some feel the best way to deal with our mental health struggles in the workplace is to just burn the whole system down. This, of course, isn’t going to help. We suggest there needs to be a rebuilding of trust in the workplace. Too many employees experience repeated disappointment when their employers take initiative to improve the overall culture, only to see no changes made. Trust can only be build as employers take action. 

We all interact with systems in the workplace. Some aren’t inherently bad or good, but how are these systems taking away from, or adding to our mental health.  how does my family, workplace and societal systems take away or contribute to my mental health, how does my workplace.

We recently hosted a luncheon for business owners and those in the workplace. They spoke to changes they would like to see in workplace systems. Changes such as:

The stress constant change, lack of training, and shortage of managers has on employees.

A need for senior leadership to lead the way in mental wellness initiatives, to not only talk about it, but take action. To take care of their own mental health and manage their own anxiety in order to manage the anxiety in their employees. 

A need for old school leadership that doesn’t see the need for wellness in the workplace to be challenged.

A request for policies created by managers to consider input from employees who the policies affect directly.

A change in focus from being results driven to a focus on people.

Clarifying the line with personal accountability for health and where the workplace plays a role. 

Does anyone have a map?

In 2013 the Mental Health Commission of Canada partnered with the Canadian Standard Association to come up with the Canadian Standard of Psychological Safety in the Workplace. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It is based on 13 Psychological Factors. We cover these in our free Ebook on our website you can download for free here.

When you have a psychologically safe environment you experience a benefit in company profit. Your company will be more productive because your people are happier, you have better retention, the RIGHT people want to stay with you longer, and you have a legal benefit as governments are starting to legislate and regulate this. When we don’t put people first we end up with high turnover, low customer satisfaction, bad social media reviews, and other unhealthy outcomes.

What are the next steps?

Talking about diversity, inclusion, respect alone isn’t enough. Adding a yoga class at lunch isn’t enough.

A great starting place is to book us for a lunch or a workshop in your workplace. From there we can discuss your goals and go deeper.

You can also arrange for your your company to take our assessment on psychological safety created by Dr. Justin Weinhardt from the University of Calgary. This assessment is confidential and measures strengths and weaknesses regarding psychological safety in your workplace.

We are passionate about creating social change in the workplace and want to journey alongside you. Reach out to us to begin!

[email protected]