On-Site Magazine

Raw data: The driving force behind a successful mental health program 

By Nadina Holca   

Construction Health & Safety

To truly enhance mental health in the workplace, a shift to pre-emptive measures is necessary.

Nadina Holca. (Photo courtesy of EllisDon)

The growing conversation on mental health in the workplace is a sign of the times, yet specific regulations to address it remain scarce. While existing mandates on workplace bullying, harassment, violence, and policies for disability and accommodation are steps in the right direction, they often overlook employees who don’t neatly fit into these categories.

In addition, many organizations find it challenging to gauge the overall mental well-being of their workforce and the particular ways in which the specific work demands and conditions affect their staff. Identifying the issues is one thing, but crafting effective responses often falls solely on the shoulders of the organizations, leaving them to navigate these complex waters largely unaided.

A singular comprehensive guide exists: Canada’s National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This is a first-of-its-kind document supporting organizations in implementing an effective workplace Psychological Health and Safety Management System.

Its thorough nature demands a high level of commitment and resources, however, causing some workplaces to defer its adoption until they are ready to fully engage. Ultimately, many organizations end up responding to psychological health issues as they arise, rather than proactively investing in preventative measures. This reactive stance can inadvertently introduce biases and reinforce a focus on immediate concerns over the long-term benefits of prevention, which are crucial for fostering lasting positive change in workplace mental health.

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Shifting to pre-emptive measures

Shifting focus from reacting to mental health issues to preventing them hinges on leveraging accurate data. While many organizations turn to annual or bi-annual engagement surveys to measure employee sentiment, these tools may not delve deeply enough to uncover root causes of employee experiences. A more nuanced approach involves using or developing targeted psychological health surveys and indexes. These, combined with confidential focus groups or one-on-one interviews, can offer a clearer picture by exploring the underlying issues more thoroughly.

Beyond gathering data, it’s crucial for organizations to consistently track and analyze key metrics such as the occurrence and triggers of psychological health incidents, disability leave rates, and employee turnover. Properly interpreted, data can illuminate specific workplace factors that detrimentally affect employee well-being.

Identifying workplace hazards is the first step toward crafting precise interventions and resources to mitigate issues.

While Employee Assistance Programs and similar wellness benefits play a critical role, they often fall into the realm of reactive solutions. Furthermore, choosing the right additional interventions can be daunting for organizations, leading to either an excessive array of costly resources or insufficient investment in necessary ones. A common shortfall is the lack of ongoing evaluation of these resources, resulting in their benefits not being fully realized.

To avoid these pitfalls, interventions should be selected with care, directly addressing the specific psychological hazards uncovered. They must be regularly assessed for effectiveness and adjusted as needed. This data-driven approach can also help to minimize biases within an organization, providing clarity on why a well-resourced workforce might still face challenges in psychological well-being.

 

Making use of the data

In short, the right kinds of data can tell an organization a lot about what is going on and what they need to do, allowing them to shift from reactive to preventative strategies. In this way, psychological health and safety management systems may become easier to implement and commit to and allow them to become as rigorous and comprehensive as any other workplace program.

To truly enhance mental health in the workplace, a paradigm shift is necessary—one that refocuses our use of data towards pre-emptive measures. Armed with the right insights, organizations are better equipped to establish and uphold an effective Psychological Health and Safety Management System that not only supports their employees’ well-being but also cultivates a healthier work environment.

 

Nadina Holca is the mental health specialist at EllisDon.

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