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BACKGROUNDER – Case Study Research Project – Final Report

What is the purpose of the case study research project?

In February 2014, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) initiated a national three-year Case Study Research Project to better understand how workplaces across Canada are implementing the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard). The goals of this project were to monitor progress, identify promising practices, challenges and barriers to implementation, and develop tools that will enhance adoption of the Standard across Canada.

Why is the Standard needed?

Two-thirds of adults in Canada are at work 60 per cent of their waking hours. Workplaces can play an essential part in maintaining positive mental health. They can give people the opportunity to feel productive and can be strong contributors to employee well-being. Yet workplaces can also be stressful environments that contribute to the rise of mental health problems and illnesses. No workplace is immune from these risks.

  • Each week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems.
  • The total cost from mental health problems to the Canadian economy exceeds $50 billion annually—nearly $1,400 for every person living in Canada.
  • In 2011, mental health problems and illnesses among working adults in Canada cost employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.
  • One in three workplace disability claims in Canada are related to mental illnesses.
  • Seventy per cent of disability costs are attributed to mental illness.

What is the Standard?

The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace was launched in January 2013. It was developed to obtain measurable improvements in the health and well-being of Canadian employees, as well as improvements in organizational effectiveness. The Standard was developed collaboratively by the MHCC, the Canadian Standards Association and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec.

This voluntary set of guidelines, tools and resources focuses on promoting employee psychological health and preventing psychological harm due to workplace factors. It specifies requirements for a documented and systematic approach to develop and sustain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

The Standard is supplemented by Assembling the Pieces: An Implementation Guide to the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, a step-by-step guide to help employers navigate through the Standard in their workplace. It is geared toward senior leaders, human resource managers and occupational health and safety professionals. The guide is comprised of four key steps to implementation: building the foundation, identifying opportunities, setting objectives and implementation.

Learn more about the Standard and associated workplace tools

Findings from the Case Study Research Project

This report is a summary of early findings at the end of the project. It outlines progress-to-date of the 40 organizations that participated in the study, as well as barriers to implementation and key promising practices. It synthesizes the experiences and discoveries of these pioneers, which can support other Canadian employers as they implement the Standard.

Key Findings:

  • Ninety-one per cent of the organizations implemented the Standard because it is “the right thing to do”. Other reasons included “to protect the psychological health of employees” (84%) and “increase employee engagement” (72%).
  • Seventy-eight per cent implemented respectful workplace policies and educational initiatives.
  • Seventy per cent provided early intervention through employee and family assistance programs and services addressing mental health.
  • Sixty-six per cent enhanced awareness of mental health among employees.
  • Participating organizations achieved on average 72 per cent compliance with the five elements (commitment and policy, planning, implementation, evaluation and corrective action, management review) in the Standard, a remarkable improvement from 55 per cent compliance at the baseline stage.

Nine Promising Practices in Implementing the Standard:

  1. Define a solid business case to justify the investment of resources.
  2. Ensure commitment exists throughout the organization.
  3. Communicate widely and effectively to maximize awareness and engagement.
  4. Embed psychological health and safety in the overall organizational culture.
  5. Dedicate the necessary human and financial resources required for implementation.
  6. Tailor programs, practices and policies to best suit your organization.
  7. Consider psychological health and safety in times of organizational change.
  8. Regularly measure the impact and results of implementing the Standard.
  9. Sustain organizational focus on the Standard beyond its initial implementation.

Organizations Participating in the Case Study Research Project

The 40 participating organizations committed to implementing the Standard, either fully or partially, by the end of the three-year project period. They nominated a champion within the organization and provided dedicated resources for the implementation. They agreed to work collaboratively and share data, findings, issues and processes throughout the project with the research team and the MHCC.

  1. AGS Rehab Solutions Inc.
  2. Alberta Health Services
  3. Bell Canada
  4. Belmont Health & Wealth
  5. Bernardi Human Resource Law LLP
  6. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
  7. Canadian Mental Health Association – Toronto
  8. Canadian Security Intelligence Services
  9. Carleton University
  10. County of Frontenac
  11. Douglas Mental Health University Institute
  12. Enbridge Gas Distribution
  13. Garden City Family Health Team
  14. Great-West Life
  15. Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
  16. Health Association Nova Scotia
  17. Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia
  18. Lakeridge Health
  19. Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living
  20. Manulife
  21. Mount Sinai Hospital
  22. Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union
  23. Nova Scotia Health Authority – Cape Breton District Health Authority Pilot Site
  24. Nova Scotia Health Authority – Capital District Health Authority Pilot Site
  25. Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
  26. Pickering Public Library
  27. Province of Nova Scotia
  28. Provincial Health Services Authority
  29. Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver
  30. Regina Mental Health Clinic
  31. Region of Peel
  32. Regional Municipality of York
  33. Rogers Communications
  34. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) – C Division
  35. The Alberta New Home Warranty Program
  36. The Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group
  37. The Scarborough Hospital
  38. Toronto East General Hospital (Michael Garron Hospital)
  39. Unifor
  40. Via Rail


The Case Study Research Project was led by MHCC, with funding support from Lundbeck Canada Inc., Great-West Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace and the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnership Program-Disability Component.

Research Team Members

  • Merv Gilbert, PhD, RPsych – Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction, Simon Fraser University and Gilbert Action Ltd. Consulting Group
  • Dan Bilsker, PhD, RPsych – Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction, Simon Fraser University and Gilbert Action Ltd. Consulting Group
  • Elliot Goldner, MD – Clinical Relations, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
  • E. Kevin Kelloway, PhD – Psychology, Saint Mary’s University and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health Psychology
  • Mike Teed, MSc – Williams School of Business, Bishop’s University
  • Caroline Biron, M.Ps, Ph.D. – Faculty of Business Administration, Laval University

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