May 1, 2019
May is Mental Health Month
Myscha StaffordSpring is here and by now, all Landscape Ontario members are back to work in full force. For the landscape and horticulture profession, it’s show time! While spring is a great time for business, it is also an extremely stressful time. It is important to take stock of your own mental health and that of your employees.

Mental health is not something many of us like to talk about, especially at work. So each May, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) hosts Mental Health Week to encourage discussions about mental health and what it really means.

Every week in Canada 500,000 people are unable to work due to mental health problems or illness. A 2017 survey by Morneau Shepell, titled, The Mental Health Experience in Canada’s Workplaces, found that 34 per cent of participants identified workplace stress as the primary cause of their mental health problem/illness. From the survey sample, 70 per cent of people identified that their workplace experience was affected by their mental health.

For a business owner, the mental health of your staff has the potential to cost your company. 78 per cent of survey respondents said they missed work due to mental health concerns, and over 30 per cent were absent for a prolonged period of two or more months. This does not account for the physical effects of mental illness, which can also lead to prolonged absence from work. Absenteeism, disability costs and high employee turnover are some of the ways in which mental health can impact your business.

How do we remedy this? Statistics say 75 per cent of people have reported their workplace does not have a mental health strategy. When mental health is something that affects 100 per cent of your staff, that number is far too high. What does your company do to support the mental health of staff? Is mental health incorporated into team meetings? Do staff have access to training? Does your company offer a group benefits program that provides access to counseling and other health resources?

This past season, practically all LO chapters held training sessions on mental health in the workplace. These events helped to promote awareness, start discussions and give members access to resources. Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) is one of those fabulous resources. They provide a variety of training modules to teach you skills to recognize the signs of mental health concerns, and how to respond to mental health issues at work. WSPS works closely with many different industries, but through their longstanding relationship with LO and its members, they actually understand the unique stresses and factors that are an everyday reality for those in landscaping and horticulture. They also offer consulting services so your company can implement strategies in the workplace for managing mental health.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has free training tools and a monthly webinar series which discusses psychological health and safety in the workplace. They have also developed The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace to offer guidelines for organizations to promote mental health.

As the season begins, start by creating a company culture that will support both you and your employees. Proper training for staff, recognition of successes, and workload management are all simple ways to support your staff and set them up for a prosperous season. By incorporating strategies into your workplace that recognize the mental health needs of your staff, you will have fewer absentees and a more productive and effective team. Employee retention will improve and you will have more engaged, dedicated employees who feel they are valued by the business.
Myscha Stafford
LO Membership and Chapter Coordinator