Workplace Wellness – Overview

What is Workplace Wellness?

A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one that promotes workers’ mental well-being and doesn’t harm employee mental health through negligent, reckless or intentional ways. For example, a psychologically safe workplace would be free of excessive fear or chronic anxiety.

What is mental health?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person understands his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

When the demands placed on someone exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health will be negatively affected. Two examples of common demands are:

  • working long hours under difficult circumstances,
  • caring for a chronically ill relative.

Economic hardship, unemployment, underemployment and poverty also have the potential to harm mental health. [1]

Facts and Stats

  • 21.4% of working population in Canada currently experience mental health problems and illness
  • $50 billion cost to Canadians – health care, lost time, work disruptions
  • Effects on physical health include heart problems, cancers, substance abuse, reduced adaptability, increased aggression/conflicts, impaired learning/memory, increased passivity
  • 30% of all short and long term disability claims are due to mental health problems

Effects on the workplace include:

  • Reduction in productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Increase in premiums, health/benefit and recruitment costs [2]

Why is it Important?

  • The impact of mental health problems and illnesses is especially felt in workplaces and among working aged people.
  • People in their early and prime working years are among the hardest hit by mental health problems and illnesses.
  • About 21.4% of the working population in Canada currently experience mental health problems and illnesses, which can affect their productivity.
  • Mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30% of short – and long-term disability claims and are rated one of the top three drivers of such claims by more than 80% of Canadian employers. [3]

What does it Look Like?

Certain features of the workplace can affect employees’ mental and physical health. These include demoralization, depressed mood, anxiety, burnout, etc. These factors increase the likelihood that an individual will experience increased stress, which in turn increases the likelihood of developing or worsening a mental disorder.

Psychological health problems can range widely, from mild psychological difficulties such as low mood, sleep difficulties, or excessive worry to severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression. Because milder psychological health problems are far more common in the workplace, they account for a larger percentage of the negative impacts on employees and employers.

Mental distress that has not reached the level of a diagnosable mental disorder can still be a source of considerable suffering. It is possible that workplace factors may increase the likelihood of the occurrence of a mental disorder, make an existing disorder worse, and impede effective treatment and rehabilitation. On the other hand, a supportive work environment can reduce the onset, severity, impact and duration of a mental health disorder. [4]





  1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2017). Mental Health – Introduction. Retrieved from
  2. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Mental Health in the Canadian Workplace Infographic. Retrieved from
  3. Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Making a Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada. Retrieved from 
  4. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2017). Mental Health – Introduction. Retrieved from