Mental Health in the Workplace: The Business Case

Posted in News


A point of feedback we’ve received on our Labour Market Insight Survey has to do with its workplace mental health module. Both employers and people in the workforce have expressed curiosity as to why we are asking questions on stress in the workplace, access to mental health resources, and time lost due to mental health challenges.

Our overall goal with those questions is to gain a broader picture of the status of working people in Niagara as a whole – checking in not only on their access and availability to work, but also their ability to work consistently at their optimal level. By examining this specific data more closely, we also gain insight into the economic impact that mental wellness can have. It turns out that scratching the surface on workplace mental health reveals a strong business case for why everyone should be invested in addressing this challenge.

A recent study from the World Health Organization reported that an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression. While that might not seem like a large number when set against a global population that numbers more than 7 billion, statistics for Canada show that approximately 20% of Canadians experience a mental health challenge or illness every year. This creates personal difficulties for the workers themselves, ranging from interpersonal challenges to reduced working hours to wage losses to job loss.

From a global financial standpoint, mental health challenges are prevalent enough to cost the global economy more than 1 trillion dollars in lost productivity, per year. Let’s contextualize that trillion dollars. Canada’s gross domestic product in 2018 was about 1.7 trillion dollars. That means the effects of depression and anxiety cost the world almost 60% of Canada’s GDP.

Closer to home, the cost is likewise undeniable. A study from the Conference Board of Canada reported that the effects of depression specifically costs the Canadian economy 32.3 billion dollars every year. Anxiety’s effects cost 17.3 billion dollars per year. A combined 50 billion dollar impact across Canada, which can also be measured as about 30% of Ontario’s 2018/19 total spending, is not a figure that should be dismissed out of hand.

The World Health Organization’s findings and information from the Government of Canada also show that employers who support their employees and promote mental wellness have higher levels of employee attendance, productivity, retention, and satisfaction. These, clearly, are also associated with better economic outcomes for businesses.

What is the impact on Niagara? That’s a good question, and one which served as a primary motivation behind NWPB’s collaboration with Niagara Region Public Health on the creation of the workplace mental health module for our Employer One Survey. We wanted to get a sense of what employers were doing to support workplace mental health, and where they needed additional support, themselves. Now that we have that lens on workplace mental health, we want to understand the challenges and opportunities from the employee, job seeking, and self-employed perspective. Combining these two viewpoints will produce a locally focused understanding of where Niagara is doing well and where there might be some pressure points.

It’s also important for employers and people in the workforce to know that there are existing tools that can address those pressure points. Niagara Region Public Health has resources at hand to help cultivate positive mental health in the workplace and build organizational policies and procedures that will reduce time lost to mental health challenges.

This is why NWPB is asking questions on workplace mental health with our Labour Market Insight Survey. It’s about more than the numbers. We want to understand needs and opportunities that impact our residents, and put that data in the hands of local organizations who can affect positive change.

The Labour Market Insight Survey is open and awaiting your response. Anybody who is employed, unemployed, or self-employed in Niagara is encouraged to complete and share the survey. The more people share their stories, the more of a complete picture we can build of what specific challenges and opportunities need attention in Niagara. The survey can be accessed through the link below:

Take the Labour Market Insight Survey Today