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Posted by Johanne Potvin, CHRP, March 15 2017
Workplace Wellness
Mental Health: Is it a Priority for Your Organization?

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According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the leading cause of disability by 2020, outweighing heart disease and critical illnesses such as cancer. This is all the less surprising since a report by the Mental Health Commission released in 2011 warns that one in five persons will suffer from a mental health condition during their working lives.

Despite these alarming figures, it is possible to contain this development by implementing winning practices throughout your organization. Read this article to find out more on how you can better prepare your business for this situation and gain a better knowledge of this issue!

First, it is important to remember that mental health is a complex reality that varies from one individual and situation to the next and evolves over time. Also, as mental health covers several aspects (social, environmental, behavioural and medical), it represents a major challenge for many organizations and entails substantial costs. But don’t worry; it is possible to check the advance of mental health-related problems, and even curb their impact on productivity, employee health and costs.

Step 1: Measure the Extent of the Problem and Set Objectives

To implement solutions tailored to your environment, it is important to take stock of your situation and identify the human and financial impacts of mental health problems within your organization. Once you get a better understanding of your issues (lost productivity, disputes between employees, absenteeism, disability, etc.) and your costs, you will be able to set realistic and achievable objectives that will meet your specific needs.

Step 2: Prepare a Business Case

Active senior management support is one of the keys to the successful implementation of a program aimed at preventing and addressing the impact of mental health issues. The business case will be used to present:

  • The facts and costs supporting the undertaking
  • The action plan that will be implemented to meet the stated objectives
  • The expected results with respect to productivity, work environment and costs
  • What will happen if the situation is not fixed (e.g. projection of direct and indirect costs).

The business plan will also enable you to obtain the investments required to carry out certain activities or get expert assistance.

Step 3: Implement Solutions That Will Generate Cost Reductions

Of course, as mental health problems have a variety of causes and impacts, the solutions will be diverse as well. However, some responses emerge as more effective options to meet specific cost reduction objectives: 

Reduce costs related to short- and long-term disability    
  • Review your short-term disability management practices (insured plan, salary continuance or employment insurance)
  • Early intervention and a “sound” management of short-term disability claims reduce costs resulting from the duration (severity) of disability and its chronification
  • Closely monitor claims based on “objectifiable” rather than “subjective” signs
  • With mental health, several “subjective” signs, such as the employee’s willingness to return to work, influence the duration of claims without supporting an “inability to work”; it is important to know and manage these signs
  • Propose return-to-work plans in keeping with temporary or permanent functional limitations
  • If performed under proper conditions, the return-to-work process is a major step towards the employee’s healing and rehabilitation
  • Perform proactive case reviews on a monthly basis
  • As several factors affect the duration of claims, reviewing active cases regularly will allow for prompter clarification of issues and lead to solutions that will reduce the duration of claims (and therefore costs)
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle and the use of an employee assistance program
  • Although results are not immediate, promoting a healthy lifestyle and the use of the employee assistance program will contribute to mental health problem prevention
Reduce costs related to absenteeism and presenteeism 
  • Train operational managers on the best employee management practices
  • Applying engaging and empowering management practices will considerably reduce absences (of all sorts) and the duration of disability, as well as increase employee productivity
  • Draft clear policies and procedures that reflect your expectations and communicate them to employees
  • It will be easier to change non-productive behaviours if you can rely on written policies that have been communicated to all employees

Download the leaflet on EAP offered by AGA

Senior Advisor with JPotvin Santé/Productivité au travail | This article was written by our contributor, Johanne Potvin. Do you want to know more on this topic? Do not hesitate to contact her at or 514 770 1866.
Johanne Potvin, CHRP