In 2016 Osgoode Professional Development embarked upon a journey for a program that continues to have a far-reaching impact on human resources professionals, managers, and employees.

The management of employee mental health issues is one of the most widespread and difficult challenges confronting today’s workplaces. The statistics are stark. As the Mental Health Commission of Canada notes:

  • 500,000 Canadians in any given week are unable to work owing to mental health problems
  • 1 in 3 disability claims are related to mental illness
  • 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental illness

Maintaining and promoting employees’ mental health and well-being in a post pandemic landscape has become even more problematic.

So what can be done to tackle these challenges? One way is by implementing workplace policies and approaches focusing on mental health and well-being, educating workers and managers on those policies, and building a positive, inclusive work culture.

In this blog we will explore into the virtues of adopting a pro-active approach to workplace mental health, and why it is a crucial investment for companies striving to create a healthier, happier, and more successful workplace.

Developing and Fostering a Culture of Compassion

If a company is willing to invest in promoting and maintaining the mental health and well-being of their workforce, it will strengthen the connection between employer and employee, leading to increased job satisfaction, lower rates of absenteeism and lower employee turnover.

Increased Productivity and Better Performance

Healthy employees are more productive.  When an employee’s mental health needs are met, they are much better equipped to focus, make effective decisions, and bring their “best self” to the organization. Approaches that identify stressors and challenges faced by employees and offer solutions and strategies to alleviate them have the added benefit of increasing productivity and enhancing the organization’s bottom line.

Reducing Stigma

If an organization develops clearly defined policies and approaches for handling mental health concerns, and is consistent in implementing them and promoting them, this will help to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health struggles. This encourages employees to seek appropriate help without fear of negative repercussions, ultimately leading to early intervention and improved outcomes.

Attracting and Retaining Talent

Today’s job market is tight and attracting and retaining talent is particularly challenging.  Those companies that seek to support their employees’ mental health and well-being will have a distinct competitive edge, as more and more job seekers place importance on culture, organizational supports and achieving a work/life balance when conducting their job search.  Additionally, a healthier and happier workforce will have a positive impact on employee retention, saving on recruitment and training costs.  

Positive Brand Image

Companies that prioritize employee mental health are seen as socially responsible ethical entities. This contributes to a positive brand image not only among employees, but also among clients, customers, investors, and other stakeholders. A positive brand is a win-win, being good for the business, and promoting a sense of pride and belonging among employees.

These matters will be all too familiar for today’s HR professionals, as well as a corresponding realization that there exists a complex network of laws and regulations that present a potential minefield for employers when dealing with workplace mental health issues.  

Now in its eighth year, Osgoode’s Certificate in Workplace Mental Health Law is a unique online, interactive 4-day program that has up-to-date explanations of the relevant laws, together with the latest clinical insights and realistic best practices.  Taught by an expert, multi-disciplinary faculty, and all key topics are covered, including:

  • The employers’ legal duty of care for employees’ psychological well being
  • Addressing substance abuse problems in the workplace
  • The employer’s duty to accommodate
  • The impact of workplace harassment and oppression on mental health
  • Social discord and its impact of psychological health and safety
  • Designing effective and realistic return to work programs
  • Creating mindful leaders – practical tips and tools

This ground-breaking program is led by Lauren Bernardi and Brian Gottheil, two experienced employment lawyers who are extremely passionate about promoting workplace mental health. When asked why this program is so important, Gottheil explains “As someone with my own mental health challenges, and having watched family members and friends struggle, I’m passionate about promoting positive mental health. Where better than at work, where we spend hours every day? I love that this certificate program is proactive, taking medical, legal and social perspectives and asking not only how we can accommodate mental health disabilities, but also how we might reduce the risk of mental injury in the first place”

Looking at what the program offers, Bernardi observed “Climate anxiety, inflation, a housing crisis, and other social issues have had a profound impact on our collective mental health. This has created strain in workplaces as employees grapple to stay resilient. As an advocate for mental health, and psychologically safe workplaces, I am proud to contribute to this program. It offers essential tools to help HR professionals by providing vital insights into how to promote workplace mental health and address this growing and complex issue”.

Featured above: Brian Gottheil (L) and Lauren Bernardi (R)

Osgoode Professional Development’s Certificate in Workplace Mental Health Law begins November 7, 2023. Full details of the program and how to register can be found here.