Mental Health: Make it your business

Business case for balance

 Increasingly, managers and employers understand the importance of supporting good work and life balance among their staff.

The evidence about the benefits for business is mounting, and employers are increasingly implementing practices that help staff maintain a healthy balance between their work and the rest of their lives. And for good reason – one estimate places the cost of a lack of work and life balance at $12-billion each year.

Of course, employers and managers must be primarily concerned about the health of their business – after all, if the business does not succeed, there may not be a workplace for employees. But the fact is that improving work-life balance will improve the success of the business in several critical ways.


Workers tend to be away from work more frequently when they’re stressed. According to the Conference Board of Canada, workers who reported a high degree of stress balancing their work and family life missed 7.2 days of work each year, while those who reported very little stress only missed an average of 3.6 days.

Absenteeism results in lower productivity if work is not completed, or overworked colleagues and potentially, overtime costs to cover for the absent staff member.

Disability costs

Workers who are stressed may be more susceptible to mental health problems. Statistics Canada found that employees who considered most of their days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful were over three times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode, compared with those who reported low levels of general stress.

The cost to employers when staff experience serious mental illness is significant. Disability costs can be up to 12% of a business’s overall payroll cost, and mental health claims are the fastest growing category of all disability costs.

Competitiveness in hiring and retention of workers

When employers think about recruiting and retaining workers, they often think first of the competitiveness of the salary and benefits package. Those are critical factors, obviously, but more and more, employees are looking for non-financial benefits when choosing a workplace.

According to a U.S. study conducted by Metlife, more than half of today’s employees rate work and life balance as a key job selection criterion. That is particularly true of workers between the ages of 21 and 30, who rank work and life balance ahead of financial growth and advancement.

Visit The website offers resources and information related to workplace health, including mental health. Other contacts include the Canadian Mental Health Association, Grand River Branch 519-766-4450 extension 231 or

Self-care strategies at work

The following self-care strategies can help to reduce or eliminate stress at work.

Pay attention to diet, especially sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Those substances can affect your mood. Try substituting protein snacks for sugar, or accompany sugar with protein. Try alternating coffee with herbal tea or juice. Avoid alcohol as it interferes with medication, can cause you to make poor choices, and dehydrates the body. If you find yourself unable to avoid or limit your alcohol, you may want to seek addiction counselling.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can trigger mood swings. Figure out a way to always have fresh water available. Drink it whether you feel thirsty or not. On average, we need eight cups of fresh water every day. Increase this amount when you drink coffee or alcohol, engage in physical activity, or on hot summer days.

Build physical activity into your daily and weekly schedule. The Public Health Agency of Canada has published a Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Health Active Living to help you make wise choices about physical activity. Try to be self-disciplined about sleep. If your sleep is disturbed because of worry about work, consider learning relaxation techniques.

Build small rewards into the day, especially for situations that you find particularly difficult. For example, if meetings are difficult for you, promise yourself that working hard to contribute successfully to a meeting will be rewarded with something that makes you feel good, such as taking a walk, chatting with a co-worker, or making a personal phone call.

Monitor your reactions to workplace interactions carefully. Do not disregard symptoms if they reappear or worsen. Keep in contact with your physician or therapist. Find a buddy at work. That is someone you can go to when you need support. Be careful not to overuse your buddy, but save the buddy time for when you really need an understanding ear. Ahead of time, make plans. With your supports (such as your therapist, friends, and family), create plans that are easy for you to act on.

Plan how to explain your absence if someone asks. Write it down and practice saying it until you’re comfortable with it.

Plan strategies to help you interact positively with colleagues, particularly if there has been conflict in the past.

Plan on what to do if you feel unwell. Have several choices available to you that you have organized ahead of time. For example, you might:

 – call a friend;

 – call your doctor or therapist ;

 – speak to your manager;

 – speak to your workplace buddy;

 – take a short walk;

 – eat something nutritious;

 – drink a big glass of water;

 – smell something pleasant;

 – write in a journal;

 – take several deep breaths;

 – meditate;

 – stretch your neck and shoulders;

 – listen to music; and

 – find something to make you laugh.