Articles & Speeches

You are here

New developments in measuring the bottom‐line impact of mental health

Until recently, there wasn’t much available in the way of tools and metrics to assess mental health at a company level, along with its associated costs. Adding to this complexity, employers now have to get up to speed on the new National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The standard is voluntary, but is a set of best practices that enable employers to develop and continuously improve work environments.

Managers have cause for concern, yet don’t often have actionable data and solutions on hand. Much has been written about trends and statistics: mental health is the number one driver of health benefits spend, the cost to employers is estimated at $1,494 per person annually1, and so on...but how can employers act on this information?

New tools recently introduced by Morneau Shepell—Mental‐Health Key Indicators and a free online Pulse Check — equip employers to take action. These make it possible to conduct a measurable, pragmatic review of the mental health of an organization, identifying areas of concern along with their associated bottom‐line impact. Employers can use the information gathered to assess mental health performance relative to their peers and to decide whether and where they might need guidance and support.

Assessing your company’s situation and taking action can pay dividends in the form of higher employee engagement, mitigation of risk and operational efficiency, all of which contribute to improving ROI. The data paints a hopeful picture: putting psychological health and safety policies in place can cut costs by 15‐33% and support employee engagement2. And it gets more encouraging, as eight out of ten employees treated for mental health issues report improved effectiveness and satisfaction at work3.

Taking action will produce results, if the approach used is based on measurement, is integrative (touches all programs related to mental health) and is flexible. Making a business case to a broad set of stakeholders that span HR and the overall C‐suite is critical. Doing so not only requires hard data on where you currently stand, but also a path to achieving both short‐term and long‐term results. For this reason it is vital to include components that can deliver highly visible in‐year returns, such as attendance and disability management. These programs can often provide part of the
funding for the longer‐term components of your strategy.

Progress on workplace mental health depends on using a flexible approach that suits your goals and your resources — one size certainly does not fit all. You can do a number of things on your own and work with an expert consultant on those specific areas where you need guidance and support. Like many companies today, you may be looking to improve your organization’s understanding of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety. Or, if your goals are larger in scale, you may be looking to put in place a comprehensive mental health strategy and implementation plan.

Establishing a comprehensive strategy and plan may sound complex, but it doesn’t have to be. With three major approaches available, you can select the one that best fits your organization. Each of these can be further explained by an expert advisor:


With a foundational approach, you put in place core workplace mental health programs such as an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), stakeholder workshops, leadership awareness sessions, disability case management, and manager and employee training.


Targeted programs allow you to realize further return on investment, by developing a mental health strategy or deploying targeted programs that operationalize mental health within your organization’s culture. Examples include a risk assessment and health engagement tools.


Maximum benefits are obtained through programs that promote workplace mental health and tie it to performance. Examples include Echo Proactive Support, Attendance Support, and assessment of your policies and programs against best practices.

Not taking action on mental health in the workplace carries its own risks. First, there’s the bottom‐line impact: $1,494 per employee per year in costs won’t diminish without action. Second, with the introduction of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, greater attention is being focused on mental health by individuals, the business community, and regulators. Companies that wish to be viewed as leading employers will increasingly be expected to embrace best practices for mental health.

The path to improved mental health is a journey, for organizations as well as their individual workers. Making progress on mental health starts with measuring your current situation and setting actionable goals. The first step on this journey is to take a free, online Pulse Check to determine how your current environment stacks up against your competitors. Morneau Shepell can take things a step further with a complimentary comparison of your company against others relative to the Mental Health Key Indicators.

1 Calculated with data from K. L. Lim et al., “A New Population‐Based Measure of the Economic Burden of Mental Illness in Canada,” Chronic Diseases in Canada 28, 3 (2008): pp. 92–98 and Statistics Canada.

2 Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction. “Mental Illness Adversely Affecting Canada’s Economic Potential,” accessed April 3, 2013,

3 American Psychiatric Association. “Therapy in America 2004: Poll Shows Mental Health Treatment Goes Mainstream,” accessed April 5, 2013,‐case/the‐businesscase‐brochure.aspx?ft=.pdf.