Workplace Mental Health

mental healthCarleton University values organizational health and the physical and psychological health and well-being of its faculty and staff, and recognizes that workplace factors impact mental health and mental illness. As such, the university strongly believes in a workplace where staff and faculty:

  • feel recognized for the work they do;
  • enjoy a positive social environment that encourages respect, fosters a sense of belonging and purpose, and allows staff and faculty to fully use their talents;
  • enjoy an appropriate balance between work and life responsibilities;
  • feel secure and enjoy a physically and psychologically safe and healthy work environment;
  • have access to meaningful opportunities to adopt healthy lifestyle practices and coping skills to manage our lives in healthy, productive ways;

Carleton University is focusing on workplace mental health initiatives to further support and uphold its commitment to ensuring the university is a healthy, safe, and supportive place to work for all staff and faculty.

Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy (2015 – 2018)

This Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy is the next exciting and challenging step in taking a systematic and co-ordinated look at the mental health status of our workplace and using that information to create an integrated approach to enhancing policies, programs and initiatives that promote the mental health and well-being of our faculty and staff. The Strategy is also a guide for making Carleton University a resilient and thriving workplace. To view a PDF of the Strategy, please click here.

Guiding Principles

The Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy is founded on three Guiding Principles.

Guiding Principle 1: Both the Institution and the Individual Play Key Roles in Promoting and Maintaining Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being

Workplace mental health and well-being can be impacted by factors related to both the individual and the institution. Accordingly, practices, policies and programs of the university need to take this into account when decisions are made and when initiatives to promote and support workplace mental health and well-being are developed and implemented. Workplace mental health and well-being are the joint responsibility of members of the university community and of the institution as a whole, in its administrative and leadership roles.

  • Workplace mental health strategies are designed with the understanding that organizational factors can impact the mental health and well-being of individuals and teams, and that faculty and staff mental health can impact organizational effectiveness.
  • As a result, workplace mental health and well-being is considered a shared responsibility among management, faculty and staff. Each plays a role in contributing to the development and implementation of practices and programs that support mental health, encourage resilience and help members of the university to reach their potential as contributors to the mission of the university. Senior leadership, faculty and staff collaborate to find solutions to problems when they occur.
  • The university has a responsibility to identify factors that could have a negative impact on faculty and staff mental health and well-being, as well as a responsibility to address problems when they are identified.
  • Similarly, each person has responsibility towards his/her own health and behaviour and recognizes the impact that her/his health and behaviour may have on others.

Guiding Principle 2: Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being is Based on a Culture of Respect, Trust, Honesty and Fairness

A culture of mutual respect, trust and fair treatment provides the foundation for a work-life that honours human needs and rights. It encourages the responsible and compassionate treatment of others, while ensuring that people are treated fairly. It underscores the contribution that each and every person makes to the well-being of fellow colleagues and the overall health and reputation of the institution. It requires that everyone “walks the talk” in contributing to an environment in which ideas can flourish and people can thrive.

  • The workplace is based on mutually respectful relationships at Carleton, among its senior leaders,  faculty, staff and students. Workplace mental health programs and initiatives strive to foster a workplace culture that is respectful, and characterized by trust, honesty and fairness.
  • Senior management’s leadership and commitment to workplace mental health and well-being is clear, visible and ongoing. Not only are legal requirements for a safe and healthy workplace adhered to but the potential impact on workplace mental health and well-being is taken into account when organizational decisions are taken.
  • The confidentiality of sensitive information is maintained. Guidelines are provided and disseminated so that managers and supervisors have the knowledge and skills to support this practice. As well, activities associated with workplace mental health planning, data collection and evaluation are conducted in a psychologically safe, confidential and ethical manner.

Guiding Principle 3: Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Initiatives are based on Best Practices and are Regularly Reviewed and Evaluated in order to Sustain a Supportive Culture and Relevant Programming

The success of the Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy depends on the commitment, engagement and energy of all levels within the university. The university community needs to know and feel that the Workplace Mental Health and Well-being Strategy is about the “way we work together,” solve problems, celebrate successes and thrive as individuals and as a community.

This requires structure and resources, active participation and collaboration of faculty, staff and management. It requires evidence that things are happening and making a difference. Faculty and staff need to see the relevance of policies and programs. Management, faculty and staff need the knowledge and skills to effectively support a positive mental health culture and to address issues that may pose risks.

Thus, the sustainability, relevance and impact of the Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy will depend on best practices, planning that is based on management, faculty and staff needs, and ongoing review, evaluation, discussion and action.

  • Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being programming is based on faculty and staff needs as determined by regular needs assessments.
  • Programs and initiatives are based on evidence and current best practices. Consultation with experts and through communities of practice is a regular activity.
  • There is a primary focus on mental health and well-being awareness and promotion as well as the development of knowledge and skills for all persons in management and supervisory positions. There is access to meaningful opportunities for all faculty and staff to adopt healthy lifestyle practices and coping skills to manage their lives in healthy productive ways.
  • The outcomes and impact of workplace mental health programs and strategies are regularly evaluated and findings are reported, shared and action is taken.

National Standard of Canada

In January 2013, National Standards for “Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation” were released. This seminal document was commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in recognition of the instrumental role that organizations play. While voluntary, these standards now provide a blueprint for organizations to review programs and policies and implement best practices to optimize psychological health in the workplace while mitigating risk for employee and organization alike.

Document: Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation

Video: National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces launch

In 2009, Carleton University adopted Excellence Canada’s Healthy Workplace criteria to promote an ongoing culture of health and wellness – physical and mental and formally instituted its Healthy Workplace Policy in 2010 to encourage the health and well-being of all employees and create a healthy, productive workforce where employees feel valued, motivated and engaged. After conducting a needs assessment of Carleton staff and faculty, which included the analysis of trends through the university’s insurance provider, Great-West Life, and its employee assistance plan provider, Family Services Ottawa, promoting a psychologically safe and healthy workplace became one of three key areas of focus of the university’s Healthy Workplace (HWP) new 2014-16 Plan.

In the same year, the university also launched a university-wide initiative to develop and implement a Student Mental Health Framework, the first of its kind in Canada. This award-winning initiative established mental health as a priority on campus and paved the way for a culture shift, the benefits of which we see today, five years later. We believe now is the time to take similar steps in Workplace Mental Health. Carleton University has committed resources to enhancing Workplace Mental Health through its engagement of an external consultant and its support of the establishment of a multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee and a cross-functional Working Group. We are in the early stages of implementing the “Standards” and have full endorsement from senior management.