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Stress and Mental Health at Work

We all experience stress at work. It might be good stress – the type that gets us excited about what we are doing and motivates us to work harder. Or it might be negative stress – the type that keeps us awake at night and leads to frustration with our work. Either way, stress is a major workplace issue. Too much stress is harmful and is one of the main contributors to mental illness at work.
50% of Canadians find their workplace to be a major source of stress. Increasing productivity demands and rapidly developing technology contribute to a faster pace of work, leading to a high pressure work culture.
Mental health: a workplace issue
It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will be affected by a mental illness at some time in their lives. Mental illness knows no boundaries – it crosses every gender, social and economic, cultural, and education sector. As many Canadians suffer from major depression as from other leading chronic conditions, including heart disease.

Only 1 in every 3 people who have depression will ask for appropriate help. For this reason, providing a workplace health program that supports mental health is very important.
What makes a difference?
In 1998, Health Canada did a survey of 50,000 workers and found that the following factors are linked to excellent self-reported health:
  • Being in control of their own health.
  • Having influence over their work.
  • Having at least 1 person they can depend on.
Ideas to promote mental health in the workplace
To support a healthy work environment, organizations can:
  • Make an employee assistance program (EAP) accessible to all staff.
  • Help people balance work and home life by creating flexible policies and allowing flexibility in the scheduling of work, where possible.
  • Make sure staff have job descriptions with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Make on-the-job training, supervision and staff support a priority.
  • Focus on clear and timely communication, especially during periods of change.
  • Increase staff participation in decision-making.
  • Provide regular performance appraisals.
  • Ensure that everyone has good working conditions, such as adequate space with comfortable heating/cooling and proper ventilation.

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