In 2013 The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ), and CSA Group officially released Canada’s first national standard designed to help organizations and their employees improve workplace psychological health and safety.

The National Standard of Canada titled Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation is a voluntary standard focused on promoting employees’ psychological health and preventing psychological harm due to workplace factors.

A psychologically healthy and safe workplace has been defined as “a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless or intentional ways.”

The implementation of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System is not about assessing an individual employee’s mental health. It is about considering the impact of workplace processes, policies and interactions on the psychological health and safety of all employees.

“One in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or mental illness in any given year and many of the most at risk individuals are in their early working years. Canadians spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else,” says MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley. “It’s time to start thinking about mental well-being in the same way as we consider physical well-being, and the Standard offers the framework needed to help make this happen in the workplace.”

The Standard provides a systematic approach to develop and sustain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace, including:
• The identification of psychological hazards in the workplace;
• The assessment and control of the risks in the workplace associated with hazards that cannot be eliminated (e.g. stressors due to organizational change or reasonable job demands);
• The implementation of practices that support and promote psychological health and safety in the workplace;
• The growth of a culture that promotes psychological health and safety in the workplace;
• The implementation of measurement and review systems to ensure sustainability.

“This voluntary national standard is the result of a collaborative effort between MHCC, BNQ and CSA Group, and is supported by scientific literature from many relevant areas of workplace health and safety, social science, and law. There is also a clear business case which supports the need for continual improvement of psychological health and safety in the workplace,” says Bonnie Rose, President, Standards, CSA Group. “Workplaces with a positive approach to psychological health and safety have improved employee engagement, enhanced productivity, and a better financial outlook.”

The voluntary Standard can be used differently by businesses and organizations of all sizes depending upon their needs. Some businesses may use the Standard as a starting point and focus on creating policies and processes to promote mental health, while others may determine that several aspects of the Standard are already in place and use the Standard to build upon their existing efforts.

“This Standard will help enable organizations to introduce measures that will assist them in meeting important internal objectives such as the promotion and protection of workers’ well-being, job satisfaction, self-esteem and job fulfilment – objectives which have been clearly shown to also lead to improvement in the ‘bottom line’,” says Jean Rousseau, Director, Bureau de normalisation du Québec.

The development of this Standard was funded in part by the Government of Canada (through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Health Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada), and through financial contributions from the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace and Bell Canada.

The Standard has been approved by the Standards Council of Canada as a National Standard of Canada. It will be available at no cost through CSA Group and BNQ.

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Mental Health Works

Mental Health Works is a nationally available program of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) that builds capacity within Canadian workplaces to effectively address the many issues related to mental health in the workplace. Canada has just released a voluntary national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace in January 2013.

Mental illness affects everyone sooner or later—one in five people will experience a mental illness directly. Those of us who do not have a mental health problem ourselves, will have a friend, colleague, or family member who is dealing with a mental health issue.

Workplaces are heavily impacted by mental health issues according to the 2011 report, Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Perspectives of Canadian Workers and Front-Line Managers. Forty-four (44) per cent of the employees surveyed reported they were either currently (12 per cent) or had previously (32 per cent) personally experienced a mental health issue.

“Mental health is a significant business issue that requires the attention of organizations. People who experience mental health issues face incredible challenges in the workplace. Many are misunderstood, shunned and underutilized,” said Karla Thorpe, Associate Director, Compensation and Industrial Relations at the Conference Board of Canada. “In a world where shortages of critical skills are top of mind for many organizations, employers cannot afford to allow this situation to continue.”

To learn more about Mental Health Works, visit

Mental Health Works Workshops/Resources

Learn about the Mental Health at Work Resources and issues around mental health in the workplace with instructor lead workshops and presentations. Each workshop is available in either English or French and delivered by a Mental Health Works Trainer. Visit

These multimedia presentations range from one-hour information sessions to full day interactive training sessions with exercises and group discussion. Each presentation includes video clips of real people who live with mental health issues, describing their symptoms and the effects of mental health issues on the workplace.

How to Live Fully at Work: The New Employee Recognition

To live fully is to have a full life in years while putting fullness into each day. It embraces and
acknowledges life’s joys and suffering, both our own and others, letting in compassion and support. Living fully is about living for both us and for others. Living fully at work is more about work/life integration than trying to find an ideal state of balance. Living fully at work is the new meaningful employee recognition when we are attuned to others in our work community and we recognize and connect with them during progress, celebration, setback, struggle, and loss.

Consider accepting even one of the following 10 invitations that life offers us at work:
1. Accept each day as an invitation to live fully.
2. Be mindful of moments and in touch with all your fluctuating emotions.
3. Engage with both your work and the people you work with.
4. Acknowledge impermanence – know that even negative experiences will change over
5. Move beyond isolation from others by making connection and contribution.
6. Flourish at work with positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and strengths.
7. Open your head, heart, and hands to your coworkers.
8. Transform the ritual question of “how are you today?” into an authentic curiosity and
really listen and respond to what the other person says.
9. Face fears and create safety at work by caring for others and caring about what they are
trying to achieve in their life.
10. Know that small is big, by taking small steps day after day you
will make a huge difference in your life or the life of someone else.
Bonus: Entertain a playful serenity with this modified serenity prayer: God grant me the
laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today
without taking myself too seriously.

David Zinger, July 26 – 2014 (

Employee Engagement and Well-being

Engage for Success 2014

Engage for Success sets out the evidence for the linkage between employee engagement and wellbeing, and the consequential impact on individual and organisational performance. Engage for Success started to investigate the importance of the links between engagement and wellbeing because of a groundswell of requests for us to examine this rich subject area.

Why Wellbeing and Engagement Matter

This report brings together the strands of evidence that Engage for Success research uncovered, and offers a perspective on the linkages between wellbeing and engagement – and how they impact performance in organisations.

Positive employee engagement is linked to factors such as employees’ ability to participate in workplace decisions, and a sense of achievement with the work performed. Conversely, lack of employee engagement has been linked to increased absenteeism, presenteeism, and lower levels of performance and productivity (Purcell, 2008). There is a difference between those who are emotionally attached to their jobs and those who are doing their jobs just because it provides promised rewards such as pay, and training (CIPD, 2012). Emotionally engaged employees perform their tasks to a higher level and are less likely to indulge in behaviours that might damage the organisation. In an increasingly unstable world, employee engagement in companies can be a force for powerful social good as well as for driving increased economic performance (Gallup, 2013). The concept of sustainable employee engagement linked to individual and organisational wellbeing is what has driven the Engage for Success research agenda on wellbeing and engagement.

Definitions of Employee Engagement and Wellbeing

There is not one singular definition of employee engagement that Engage for Success recognizes as superior to others, but the definition it offers to organisations to consider is:
• “a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed
• to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to
• organisational success, and are able at the sameti me to enhance their
• own sense of wellbeing.”

Research produced by Robertson Cooper’s founding directors (2010) demonstrated that wellbeing and employee engagement influenced employee performance, and that wellbeing significantly strengthened the relationship between employee engagement and Robertson Cooper (2014) commented that since 2011 wellbeing has taken precedence over the previous focus on workplace stress, switching from a narrow, responsive mind-set to one that is more holistic and preventative.

Bevan, in a Work Foundation paper (2010), noted that a growing number of employers, particularly large organisations, were adopting measures to promote and support health and wellbeing amongst their workforces, in order to improve productivity, commitment and attendance.

Organisations often state that ‘people are our greatest asset’ but companies do not generally define what they mean by this, and public reporting is historically poor and lacks materiality. Business in the Community’s Workwell Public Reporting Guidelines (BITC, 2013) on employee engagement and wellbeing use BITC’s Workwell Model as a template for public reporting and are an attempt to elevate these matters to be considered strategic boardroom issues.

The Linkages Between Wellbeing, Engagement and Performance

Engage for Success found that engaged employees with high wellbeing were (35%) more attached to their organisations than those with lower wellbeing, and the best companies to work for frequently outperformed the FTSE100 norm, particularly during the economic downturn from 2009 onwards (Engage for Success, u.d.). Academic research supports the links between employee engagement and wellbeing, absence and resilience. For example, Bruno et al. (2012) reported that work engagement is associated with higher levels of psychological wellbeing. Schaufeli et al. (2008) stated that work engagement is negatively correlated with burnout, whilst Soane et al. (2013) found that “meaningful work leads to lower levels of absence because people are engaged with their work” and that “the association between meaningfulness and engagement is strengthened by wellbeing”.