The 2015 workplace mental health priorities report

Read what employers, employees and physician think about mental health in the workplace.

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Workplace mental health trend

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the economic burden of mental health problems is $51 billion annually, of which 40% could be attributed to loss of productivity at work.

In 2010, these costs were already estimated to be $1,494 per person per year.1 Multiply that amount by the number of employees in your organization and you will get a sense of the true costs you face—including those that are often hidden, such as costs related to presenteeism, and the indirect costs such as replacement of resources or overtime.

Many organizations have started addressing this problem over the last few years by implementing health-related prevention and promotion strategies, and various employee and manager programs.

It is in this context that the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety (PHS) in the Workplace CSA Z1003/BNQ 9700-803-7 was launched on January 16, 2013. This standard is voluntary and is intended to assist companies in creating an environment that encourages mental health. It is also intended to align with other related standards such as Healthy Enterprise (BNQ 9700-800), Occupational Health and Safety Management (CAN/CSA-Z1000) and Occupational health and safety - Hazard identification and elimination and risk assessment and control (CSA Z1002), as well as other accepted standards on management systems. The aspects outlined in the PHS are likely to change the way mental health and illness is addressed in the workplace..


There are a number of reasons why employers should pay attention to their employees’ psychological health and safety :

  • Financial Management: Mental health can significantly impact costs when considering together the absences, short- and long-term disability, the use of prescription drugs and occupational injury claims.
  • Legal Compliance: Legal responsibilities regarding mental health in the workplace are practically just as imposing as for physical health. The jurisprudence suggests that employers have considerable responsibility in this area and should take measures to prevent workplace mental injury that may be caused by the work environment, and to promote psychological balance through measures that support employees, such as implementing an employee assistance program.
  • Employee Engagement: The factors that influence employee engagement have a positive correlation with mental health. There are seven factors that influence satisfaction, retention and mental health, namely:
    • trust in senior management;
    • clear understanding of vision and strategy;
    • employees’ opinion on subjects that concern them;
    • involvement in important decisions;
    • recognition of good work;
    • trust in supervisors; and
    • trust in managers that are considerate and caring toward their employees.
  • Operational Efficiency: process optimization and reduction of productivity losses have become standard issues for employers. The PHS standard offers a frame of reference for reducing risks and promoting efficiency of processes and persons. Solutions to practical questions, such as training managers and employees in mental health, conflict management, or accommodating persons returning to work after a disability, should promote psychological health in the workplace, which is based on five key pillars:
    • Resilience;
    • Recognizing Risk;
    • Recovery;
    • Return-to-work; and
    • Removing stigma.


Whether you aim for a fully integrated workplace mental health program, or you want to take small steps that have a big impact, you need to know where you currently stand.

Step 1: Assess your situation by using the free self-serve online tool at that provides your organization with an instant gauge of your organization’s mental health readiness compared to your competitors. Assessing your company’s situation and taking action can pay dividends in the form of higher employee engagement, risk management and operational efficiency, all of which will then contribute to improving your ROI.

“Pulse Check” provides you with a simple action plan to implement a mental health strategy or the PHS standard and includes components of a psychological health and safety management system, as shown in Figure 1.

Step 2: Leadership awareness is required before adopting a mental health strategy in the workplace. It is crucial to obtain engagement and leadership in order to create a culture that supports mental health in the workplace. This engagement may be obtained following an information session and awareness building of the issues that are involved in mental health and the human and financial advantages for the employers.

Step 3: Business case and developing an action plan. Making a business case to a broad set of stakeholders from HR and top management is sometimes necessary. This exercise requires administrative data that describe the existing situation, such as the costs of absences and disabilities associated with mental health issues or even the prescription drug costs, or the main reasons for consulting an EFAP. Based on the available data and the intended goals (cost reduction or containment, employee engagement, attracting or retaining talent, etc.), we are able to define concrete means to be implemented to obtain short- and long-term results such as developing an implementation strategy, developing attendance and disability management policies or programs, coaching managers or HR, developing a work-life balance program or assessing individual or organizational risk related to mental health.

  1. Commitment, Leadership and Participation: Demonstrate commitment through a policy statement approved by senior management to create a management approach to psychological health and safety in the workplace. The leadership and the participation concern the persons who assume the main responsibility for the organization’s success in order to support all management levels in implementing the policy, and to encourage active and meaningful participation of all personnel in the activities offered.
  2. Planning concerns identifying and evaluating risk factors for work-related psychological health and safety hazards, as well as identifying legal obligations. Analyzing existing management system gaps compared to the requirements of the PHS standard or the best practices help identify opportunities for improvement.
  3. Implementation means to provide and maintain an infrastructure and resources to achieve conformity to the standard, including preventive and protective measures related to hazards and risks, such as implementing a process to manage complaints related to psychological harassment or disability management programs and support to persons with mental illness, such as depression.
  4. Evaluation and Corrective Measures are intended to establish and maintain procedures to monitor, measure, and record psychological health and safety conformance and the effectiveness of the implemented programs, and eventually to measure the ROI.
  5. Management Review implies establishing and maintaining a process of scheduled management reviews of the action plans and the results obtained, such as continuous assessment of costs, risks and needs in order to identify opportunities for improvement based on set objectives.


It is in organizations’ interest to reduce “non-health” costs associated with mental health impairment. Workplaces with a positive approach to psychological health and safety are better positioned to recruit and retain talent. In these organizations, we can see improved employee engagement, enhanced productivity, greater creativity and innovation. Work environments that embrace a positive approach to psychological health and safety can cut their costs by 15% to 33%,2 including a reduction in direct costs, such as insurance costs and lost time related to presenteeism, as well as a reduction in lost time caused by significant problems such as interpersonal conflicts, grievances, staff turnover and performance or morale problems.

By developing a strategy for prevention and mental health promotion and integrative solutions, you can be among the early adopters of Canada’s new National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace.

Be at the forefront by offering a healthy working environment, centered on quality of life at work. You will be viewed by your employees as a leader in psychological health and safety. This recognition by your employees will assure you a competitive advantage and will support attracting and retaining talent.

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, Vol. 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 2013,