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COLUMN: A healthy workplace happens when we exercise our mental-health muscles

'We go to the gym for our physical workout; and churches, mosques, or synagogues for our spiritual development. I think Ferrance may be onto something when it comes to a mental workout.'
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Columnist John Liston

I spent 25 years in the employee benefits industry, was on the board of the Caritas Health group, and managed offices in four cities with more than 100 employees. I now work with more than 100 companies, who employ more than 100,000 people. The common thread through all is the people. A large challenge for many businesses seems to be properly caring for the mental health of their employees and their families.

The effects of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression cost North American business more than $551 billion each year. Workers Compensation Board claims are now predominantly emotional instead of physical in nature. Seventy-eight per cent of employees reported that mental health was the main cause of missed work; 25 per cent of employees are at risk of burning out in the next 12 months; and 75 per cent of employers consider stress as their No. 1 health concern. Think about what these mental-health concerns mean to all the stakeholders — Houston, we have a problem.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with speaker, author, entrepreneur, and registered psychologist Ganz Ferrance to talk about how we shift the narrative to create business cultures that help relieve the stressors instead of creating or perpetuating them. “You know that feeling when you do a job well, that sense of mastery? Everyone deserves to feel that.” said Ferrance, “and the better you feel, the better you do. It is inherent in all of us, but so many don’t see the path or have the tools to get there.”

As Alberta's economy ramps up, there is a shortage of good people, which will really challenge employers to work hard to attract and retain their folks. As we have seen, creating a work environment with omelette bars, workout centres, pool tables, and the like is one way to create an attractive corporate culture. Flexible schedules, working from home, and many other methods have evolved out of COVID as well. But what people are still missing is the proactive and regular coaching to help them develop their mental tools.

Ferrance has always been a ground breaker; you have likely heard him on CHED radio or seen him on TV. His mission is to find ways to help more people on a regular basis. He will be releasing a program for employers and their teams: a video or audio lesson for several minutes a day. Over several weeks you begin to develop thoughts and tools to guide you to proactively be your best self, for your work, parenting, and in all your relationships. I am excited to see what tools Ferrance and his team have created.

We must find ways to stay in balance by developing ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. We go to the gym for our physical workout; and churches, mosques, or synagogues for our spiritual development. I think Ferrance may be onto something when it comes to a mental workout.

Another tool is to be grateful. Research shows it is difficult to be stressed when we are feeling gratitude. As Roman philosopher Cicero said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

John Liston is the vice-president of Alberta Enterprise Group, and a St. Albert resident active in our business and charity communities.