Why Workplace Mental Health, Why Now


Most of us spend more time with work than any other part of our life. In a given week, although only 30%-40% of waking hours are spent physically at work, most of us spend 60%-70% of waking hours mentally with work.


Only 32% of employees today feel that their organization’s leadership is taking action to address workplace mental health. CAMH (the Center for Addiction and Mental Health) is one of the world’s leading mental health hospitals and research centers. I joined their board three years ago and have been inspired by the people, stories and ideas I have come across. CAMH recently published a 28-page playbook for business leaders that outlines a 5 step framework on how any organization can take action to address workplace mental health. Here is a link to download the playbook.


I believe we will look back at this period in history as the moment when we changed our relationship with workplace mental health. Everything changes and the tipping point we are crossing is taking mental health from a stigmatized disease we pretend does not exist towards a part of everyday life that impacts every single member of our team.


1 in 5 people experience mental illness and 5 in 5 people have mental health. If your team has ten people, at least two of them are impacted directly by a mental illness, most of your team will have family or friends directly impacted and all of your team has mental health.


Over the past few years, we have taken deliberate actions to strengthen workplace mental health at Polar. Here are three specific examples:


1. Flexibility: we trust our team to make choices as to how, when and where they want to work. We provide a tremendous amount of flexibility in what time people want to work, if they want to work from home and how much vacation they would like to take.


2. Technology: we have been really intentional on how we use (vs abuse) technology. This includes tech-free meetings (no phones or laptops), mandating that people disconnect completely from email and Slack while taking vacation and not asking anyone to be online during evenings and weekends.


3. Mindfulness: we take a mindful moment at the start of team meetings, board calls and client workshops, making available group meditations regularly and running workshops for those interested to learn more.


The benefits to our culture, our clients and our company are clear to me however I don’t prioritize mental health because it’s a positive ROI (which it is), but because it’s the right thing to do. This is why we will continue to invest in programs and practices that support mental health in the workplace.


By the age of 40, half of us have had a mental illness. 20% of employees have voluntarily left roles for mental health reasons. The numbers increase to 50% for millennials and 75% for Gen Z. 70% of all disability costs are due to mental illness. Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year – an average of almost 11 suicides a day. After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 34.


There is a lot of work to do and it feels like we are just getting started.


Download the workplace mental health playbook today and share it with your team, manager or leaders to start a conversation about what this looks like for your organization.