Make Mental Health a Priority in the Workplace

By: go2HR

Your Business and Employees Will Thank You

There is no denying it, these past two years have been the toughest that many BC businesses have had to face. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners, leaders, and front-line employees have found themselves thrown into a world of financial and economic uncertainty driven by a global threat to personal health and safety. As if navigating through provincial health orders, COVID-19 safety protocols, PPE shortages, difficult customers, and the stops, starts, and restarts of business wasn’t enough, many pubs, bars, lounges, and liquor stores in BC have also had to deal with unprecedented environmental crises—atmospheric rivers, floods, and wildfires. Just as many had started to feel as though they could catch their breath, these additional challenges added to the drain on physical, financial, and mental resources as businesses now needed to turn their attention to supply-chain issues, and the ongoing challenge of labour shortages. Studies from the Canadian Mental Health Association BC (CMHA BC) show that 38% of Canadians say that their mental health has declined due to COVID-19.

“The toll on individual mental health cannot be denied, understated, or left unaddressed.”

As we begin to gradually move toward economic recovery, the efforts to-date have required an inordinate amount of personal determination, effort, and resilience to keep the doors of businesses open and service our guests. Yet, as service professionals, we continue to strive not to let the pressures show to our guests. If we are to fully recover, the toll on individual mental health cannot be denied, understated, or left unaddressed in the workplace. But what is mental health and what can individual employers do to support staff and make mental health a priority in their workplace? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Tip #1: Recognize That It’s Ok to Not to Be Ok

We need to start by talking about mental health in the workplace and just like our physical health, mental health is a spectrum that fluctuates. We are human, and no one can be expected to “be on” and function at their full capacity all day, every day, even during the best of times. Understand that employees may need some help if they aren’t feeling like themselves and are struggling to meet the daily demands of their shifts. Build relationships and get to know your employees so that you can notice when they may need some extra support to function at their full capacity. Offer policies that enable employees to take time off to deal with personal or family-related challenges when needed.

Tip #2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

In times of uncertainty, we worry when we don’t know what is happening around us. Provide and encourage open, ongoing, and respectful two-way communication and keep employees informed about the business and address questions or concerns. Where possible, involve employees in decision-making.  Ensure employees know who they can talk to if they have questions, concerns, or ideas and be sure that they feel safe to do so, without fear of reprimand.

Tip #3: Lead by Example

If you are a business owner or senior leader, when (honestly) was the last time you took a day off or a short break away from work to recharge your batteries? While the thought of any time away from the business may seem outside the realm of possibility, constantly running on empty will not do you, your business, or your employees any good. Your employees will take their cues from you. Lead by example and take breaks throughout shifts (invite employees to join you for a 5-minute walk around the block, share a fun upbeat song, tell a joke) and promote work-life balance (share a fun activity that you did on a day off and encourage employees to be active and share their experiences).

Tip #4: Know That You Are Not Alone, Support is Available

As business leaders, you are not expected to have all the answers.  When it comes to the topic of mental health in the workplace, you may be surprised to learn that there is a wealth of free resources available. go2HR, the human resources and health and safety association for the BC tourism and hospitality industry is pleased to have partnered with the CMHA BC to develop and deliver industry-specific mental health resources for you and your employees. Visit BC’s Hub for Workplace Mental Health ( or meet and contact one of new go2HR Workplace Learning Coaches –

As BC’s pubs, bars, lounges, and liquor stores continue to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent environmental and economic crises, mental health needs to become a workplace priority.  Following these tips will help get you started.  We invite you to contact us to learn more and continue the conversation.