Section 3 – Roles and Responsibilities
All organization stakeholders must have clear written roles and responsibilities to follow during and after workplace policy implementation. Stakeholders can be broken up in to such areas as: Managers and Employees.
- Workplace risk assessment – This will entail training management in identifying the signs of stress and other mental health hazards in the workplace. Management will need to be able to spot the first signs of stress factors and will need to be comfortable in speaking directly to staff about stress-related issues. A key priority here is to ensure the positive development of a trustful relationship to ensue the staff member is completely satisfied to be open and honest. When stressful situations are identified, management must move swiftly with the staff to create action plans which are suitable to all parties to immediately reduce and work towards eliminating the stress hazard involved.
- Communication and resources – Communications is crucial to the success of the workplace mental health plan. Management MUST be aware of the communication skills needed to talk with the staff regarding mental health issues and in particular workplace stress. Staff need to feel completely safe in opening up with managers and must not feel that they will be looked down upon or blamed when speaking about mental health issues. Team meetings should be held regularly with open discussions being encouraged and supported. Resources should be made available to all staff, information booklets, support documents, contact numbers and outside contact information for community services should be readily available. Posters should be posted indicating the importance of mental health as well as the policies should be both distributed to all employees as well as posted for access by everyone.
- Monitoring levels of work – Managers must be knowledgeable about safe workloads and must recognize when staff have unhealthy levels of pressure. Managers should monitor workloads and take corrective action if hazards are noticed. These situations should continue to be monitored and should also be brought to the team meetings for suggestions if appropriate.
- Stress-related absences – Owners and Managers must be cognisant of any indications of increased absence of staff members as well as fellow management. Missing time is a precursor to more serious issues and absence patterns should be noted and watched. A key issue to also watch is transferred workloads on present employees when their co-workers are absent. If patterns are noticed, return to work interviews should be undertaken with potential issue identification leading to action oriented activities. If stress-related health risks are identified, workers should be encouraged to use employment assistance programs which may include lightened workloads, time off, counselling and other assistance as required.
- Employee training – Staff must be offered on the job training to handle the pressure of their responsibilities in a safe and healthy manner. Staff must fully understand their role. One on one training can ensure job duties are completely understood and will reduce stressful work environments. New hires should be encouraged to reach out if in doubt, and should be monitored to ensure they fully understand their tasks.
- Maintaining reasonable hours – Management is responsible for ensuring staff and fellow management do not work excessive hours and take their full entitlement to holidays. Management must be fully aware of the importance of home/work separation and should implement firm policies on email and other communications after regular business hours. The convenience of portable email or cell phone does not mean the employee is at work more than regular working hours each day and it is imperative that this away time is recognized by Management as being a key component to maintaining a healthy workplace. Any excessive violation of this should be recognized as a hazard and acted upon without delay.
- Staff support – Management should be able to offer staff support in maintaining a stress free life whenever possible. The organization leaders must realize that outside events do take place in all families and incidences such as accidents, deaths, separations, etc. are very vulnerable times in people’s lives. Support needs to be readily available and employment assistance programs should be offered when needed, that is their purpose.
- Managerial support – Managers need adequate training, strong support and adequate time to spend with staff to maintain a healthy work environment. Managers need detailed training to ensure the workplace mental health policies are properly implemented. Whenever possible, outside professional trainers should be brought in to adequately train management in mental health and wellbeing. Managers should maintain constant awareness of other developing policies or laws which may have an influence on their workplaces in such areas as compassionate leaves, maternity/ paternity leaves, etc.
- Employee support – Employees must look after themselves both in the workplace as well as outside. Staff need to ensure they play their part in reducing stressful conditions and must report any stress and/or unhealthy workplace situations. Cooperating with management in reducing unhealthy work environments includes ensuring they take their allotted breaks, lunches, days off and holidays as entitled. Open communication is extremely important.
- Internal relations – Co-workers and supervisors need to all be treated and communicated to with respect at all times. Positive attitudes and respectful communications create healthy environments. In no instance is it acceptable to stigmatize, harass or discriminate against any person. If any employee witnesses such actions it is their duty to report this to management immediately.
- The representative union must be consulted and present during the development of workplace policies. Their buy-in and agreement to any workplace changes will hinge on meaningful engagement and participation. In particular, their input on reducing workplace stressors will add pertinent value to the process and will allow for their assistance in implementing all policies and procedures.
For Further Information
The Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) is a national, not for profit, consumer driven, voluntary health charity committed to developing and sharing resources which lead to better health and well-being of Canadians. The MDSC understands that the workplace is an area where most Canadians spend a large part of their lives. To this end, workplaces have a significant role to play in maintaining the health of their employees.
As a service to employers, the MDSC will be presenting a series of mental health in the workplace topics which we hope will assist employers in assessing their current operations and assist them in understanding the parameters of creating a plan for implementing or improving workplace mental health resources, supports and training for both management and staff. The MDSC has experienced leaders who can assist companies and organizations assess, develop and implement mental health policies, programs and supports at a reasonable cost. Contact us to discuss further how we may be able to assist your company become a leader in providing a safe work environment.