October 10 is World Mental Health Day, so we wanted to put a spotlight on the importance of workplace wellbeing. But what are the links between a mentally healthy workplace and an immigrant inclusive workplace?

Nichola Johnson-Young, TRIEC’s Senior Manager, Employer and Stakeholder Relations, explains.

According to the World Health Organization, workplaces that promote mental health and support employees with mental health issues are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.

With immigrants making up such a high percentage of the country’s growing population[1],  it’s imperative their well-being is properly considered and accounted for in the workplace.

As organizations hire and onboard immigrant professionals, they need to make sure that the work environment is inclusive, employees feel valued, and differences are respected so everyone can contribute to their fullest potential.

This involves understanding the barriers that can hinder inclusion and impact an employee’s wellbeing and productivity. What are some of those barriers, and how can we get past them?

Unconscious bias
Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups that people form without being aware of what they’re doing. Because of this, they can be difficult to address. There are various forms of unconscious bias that can be at play in an organization, but whatever they look like, they all have the ability to create stress in the workplace and impede a truly inclusive culture.

We all have biases that influence our behaviour but being aware of these biases is crucial. When we understand how biases work, we can start to take action on a regular basis to mitigate them.

In-group favouritism
As humans, we all have an ingrained tendency to seek out people that are similar to us. This leads to groups or cliques being formed, which in turn can lead to people being unintentionally excluded. This can expand to the wider organizational structure, impacting on areas such as mentoring, promotion, and compensation.

The “in-group favouritism” phenomenon can derail any inclusion plan, with employees seeking alternative employment due to feeling excluded or being under or over-worked.

To solve this, organizations can implement initiatives to increase positive connections between different groups of employees. Leaders should strive to listen to and encourage people with different perspectives and views.

It’s the little things that matter the most. Small behaviours can be conveyed in such a subtle way that at times, you might not even be aware you are displaying them.

They might seem harmless, but in fact, they send a dangerous message of devaluation. Those who are at the receiving end of these behaviours over and over can experience a drop in morale and become demotivated.

The solution? Micro-affirmation. Research from the Harvard College for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion suggests that making small positive affirmations through your actions or words could be a key way of counteracting micro-aggressions.

Whether positive or negative, micro-behaviours can have a huge impact on the workplace and how employees feel about themselves and their work environment. Making sure that they are positive means that their impact will be positive too.

Beyond immigrant inclusion
A 2012 report from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now IRCC) said “the well-being of recent immigrants has powerful consequences for our current and future success as a nation.” Taking action to remove the above mentioned barriers can have a transformative effect on an organization, creating an inclusive environment not just for immigrants, but for every employee.

On World Mental Health Day and every day, we cannot underestimate the value of an inclusive workplace culture.

[1] A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada says that “immigrants today make up 65% of Canada’s net annual population growth”.