Work

Manifesto

Let’s start a conversation about wellness at work. Because when we’re at our best, our work is too. It’s time to celebrate people with diverse mental conditions. To build a positive culture surrounding mental health. And to back it up with policy.

Principles

Commit to Confidentially

Some people choose to discuss and share their mental health issues publicly, but for most, it’s a private matter. Even in open minded environments, everyone should be able to disclose personal information and trust that it’ll be kept in confidence. Any departments that are known for judging or sharing confidential details, are not ones that people will confide in.

First, establish a role in your company that’s responsible for receiving accommodation requests. Empower employees to use this person or department as a resource, and drive home that everything discussed will remain confidential. Prove this to them. Once a plan is developed, this team member is responsible for working with an employee’s manager to make sure its implemented correctly. No one else needs to be involved in the process. Make these roles clear and do not compromise on them. Spend time communicating your organization’s plan to the whole team. There should never be confusion about the outlets people have to find support.

Fund Wellness Initiatives

Workplace accommodations help make the day-to-day more manageable and productive. Benefits packages break down barriers to care and encourage employees to take control of their wellbeing. And wellness initiatives tie it all together by making mental health a key component of your company culture.

It’s one thing to demonstrate your support of mental wellness via policy. It’s another to provide opportunities for people to slow down and reflect amidst the daily stress of deadlines, reviews and tough decisions. Fund community building and stress management events like office yoga and art therapy. Provide discounts to activities outside the office, like acupuncture, massages, gym memberships and mindfulness classes. Bring in speakers to discuss the importance of work-life balance and how it can be achieved in high stress environments. Survey your team and figure out what they want more of — presentations, group outings, in-office events. And then make them happen.

Office Accommodations

Work environments come in many forms — corporate offices, factory floors, production sets, the outdoors. So do triggers that might increase anxiety or depression in those battling a mental health condition. That’s why accomodation plans should be individualized for every job. Nothing cookie cuter or generic. This is about understanding your team, their needs, the issues that could arise in your environment, and how to sufficiently support people who are living with a mental condition.

What does a strong accommodations plan look like? In some cases, it can be as simple as adjusted hours, work from home flexibility, and alleviation from non-essential but stressful tasks, like answering phones or attending certain outings. In other cases, it involve allowing emotional support dogs into work, changing desk location, or providing isolated areas for anxious employees to decompress. At the end of the day, accommodations are meant to alleviate intense emotional responses so that people can do their job with greater ease and productivity.

Start the Conversation

Step one: talk. Creating a workplace culture that accepts mental differences and encourages wellness is impossible if the topic is off limits. In order for people to feel comfortable, they need to know that mental health is understood and empathized with in their workplace. Encourage leaders to sit down with their teams and make their stance known — we care about your wellbeing, we know things get hard, and we’re here to help if you need it.

Don’t rush the discussion. Celebrate it. People are intimidated, embarrassed and afraid of what can happen when they voice their problems. Make them feel at home. Help them understand the options they have when it comes to finding treatment or requesting accommodations. Promote the use of non-stigmatizing language. Discourage gossip. Encourage mentorships that strengthen employee bonds. Discuss warning signs and crisis plans in case of a mental health emergency. And use conversation as a tool to break down the barriers that stigmatize support.

Align Physical & Mental Health Benefits

Mental wellness is as important as physical wellness when it comes to performance and job satisfaction. Don’t believe us? Depression alone costs US businesses over $44 billion in lost productivity each year. The impact of unresolved mental health conditions is not worth leaving unaddressed, both for the sake of your company and those who keep it running.

For a benefits plan to truly take care of its people, there must be parity between the perks being offered for physical ailments and those offered for mental ones. Anything short of that is not real equality. Offer health insurance that includes coverage for mental health services. Consider EAPs, aka Employee Assistance Programs, that help identify and assist workers in resolving personal issues. Fund educational initiatives, like supervisor training, so that leadership is equipped to spot and respond to warning signs. (But remember: many red flags will go unnoticed, and that’s not their fault). Or resilience training, so that staff can practice preventive measures that keep flare ups at bay. And finally, things like parental leave, childcare services and unlimited PTO support employees in their quest for establishing a healthy work-life balance.

I pledge to fight for mental wellness initatives in my workplace.

Work Resources in

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

A centre aiming to increase knowledge and awareness of workplace psychological health and safety.

A Manager's Guide to Suicide Postvention

Provides clear steps for leaders to develop long-term strategies that help employees cope.

The Action Alliance's Workplace Task Force

Offers solutions and motivates employers from inaction to the implementation of workplace mental health policies/plans.

Center for Workplace Mental Health

Helps employers create a more supportive workplace environment for their employees and advance mental health policies.

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