Disability & Accommodation: Your Business Advantage

Monday, March 04, 2013

We would like to give a serious thank you and shout out to the Canadian Mental Health Association for hosting their National Bottom Line Conference on February 27th. The team at Champions was excited to join thousands of other people nationwide to discuss workplace mental health and it was our honour to be involved as delegates, exhibitors and presenter at the Conference.

Our own Lori James, Client Services Manager, gave a presentation at the conference titled Disability and Accommodation: Your Business Advantage. In her presentation, Lori highlighted the costs of not addressing mental health in the workplace and how accommodating persons with mental illnesses is not only the right decision, but a smart business decision.

So what makes accommodating individuals with a mental health issue the right business decision? Let's look at the numbers...

  • 500,000 Canadians are absent from work each day, on average, due to mental health reasons
  • 1 in 6 Albertans have a disability
  • In Canada in 1998, $6.3 Billion dollars was spent on uninsured mental health services & time off work for depression & distress that was not treated by the health care system
  • The average cost and time for dealing with a mental health issue at work is 67 days and costs in excess of $10 000 
Building a psychologically healthy workplace can foster employee well-being and health while also embracing an organization's need for performance and productivity. However, psychologically healthy workplaces don't happen overnight, it requires effort to build environments where employees feel empowered and healthy. 

Accommodating an employee with a mental illness, or any other disability, is critical to creating a healthy workplace. When you think about it, accommodations are a part of every work environment. Some accommodations are lifestyle related, like arriving or leaving work at different times for non-work related appointments, looking after your children, or temporary bouts of illness. Other accommodations we make all the time are productivity related, like closing your door because of a bad day or need to focus, taking a walk to clear your head, working from home or adjusting communication methods to different learning styles.

Similarly, accommodation for persons with disabilities, including mental illness, does not always have to be complex or costly. Most accommodations are done by the individual themselves or cost less than $500. However, to build a psychologically healthy workplace requires a creating an environment open to disclosure. An environment where employees feel that they can communicate their concerns and receive the support they need equals an inclusive workplace. 

There are plenty of ways for employers and employees to work together to build psychologically healthy workplaces, and there are agencies, like Champions and the CMHA, who can show you how. 


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