Employers can use five management practices to lower mental health and disability claim rates in their organization, according to a new study.

The five-year Salveo Study, led by researchers from Université de Montréal, Université Laval and Concordia University, in partnership with Manulife Financial, identified some of the risk factors that contribute to mental-health disorders in the workplace by interviewing more than 2,100 employees from 63 organizations of all sizes.

Participants filled out a comprehensive questionnaire and underwent saliva tests, which backed up their responses. For instance, most of those who said they had depression had higher levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, says Virginie Gosselin, senior health and wellness consultant at Manulife.

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According to the report, the combination of work and personal life issues plays a significant role in mental-health disorders. “Often we hear that the workplace is a root cause of mental health, but now we see other risk factors,” says Gosselin, noting that this conclusion shows addressing the issue requires more thought on the part of employers.

In addition to studying the risk factors, researchers analyzed the impact of a number of management practices associated with stress, health and wellness through employer case studies. The report found the following five are the most useful for companies that want to improve mental health in the workplace:

  1. Designing jobs based on employee skills and interests, which was found to have an 87 per cent probability of reducing claims;
  2. Promoting work-life balance opportunities, which was found to have a 77 per cent probability of reducing claims;
  3. Recognizing employees for their achievements, which was found to have a 74 per cent probability of reducing claims;
  4. Promoting physical activities, which was found to have a 69 per cent probability of reducing claims; and
  5. Implementing strategies to help employees maintain a reasonable workload, which was found to have a 64 per cent probability of reducing claims.

Gosselin notes the case studies also showed that, regardless of size, all companies that employed the five management practices were successful in reducing their mental-health claims.

“We often think it’s larger organization that can do something, but the study has shown it’s also possible in small organizations,” she says. “The only difference was that in the small organizations, it may not have [been written in policies] compared to larger organizations.”

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The study also shows it’s essential for employers to have an integrated program that not only takes into account health and wellness, but also considers workplace culture and environment, says Gosselin. “When we think about health and wellness in the workplace, we often think about improving health habits, which is really good, but we also have to make sure to look at our management practices, our work-life balance and work environment to make sure we have an effective approach.

“You really have to take a global and comprehensive approach if you want to have success with your initiative and wellness strategies,” she adds.

Additional findings include: 24 per cent of participants reported a recent episode of psychological distress; 11 per cent said they were inefficient in the workplace at least once a week; and adults in their early and prime working years were among the hardest hit by mental-health problems and illnesses.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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