Healthy workplace

At Tuesday’s Mentally Healthy Workplace Awards at the Coast Capri Hotel are, back row, from left, Canadian Mental Health Association (Kelowna branch) executive director Shelagh Turner, Trina Zacharias from Starbucks (the winner of the large business award), Jay Daniels of Starbucks, Robin Lukash from Starbucks, Melissa Loerke of Two Hat Security (the mid-sized business winner) and breakfast guest speaker Joti Samra. In front, from left, are Mackenzie Sharpe of Starbucks, Jane Otterstrom from Touchstone Law (small business award winner), Aleah Zylyk of Two Hat Security and Megan Hawkins from Two Hat Security.

Slamming your coat and purse on your assistant’s desk while barking orders does nothing to foster a mentally healthy workplace.

Neither does belittling a co-worker, playing mind games nor overloading someone with poorly assigned work.

All such not-to-do tactics elicited laughter when a clip from the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” was played Tuesday at the Mentally Healthy Workplace Awards breakfast at the Coast Capri Hotel.

“Of course, that’s an exaggerated example from a comedy movie,” said guest speaker Joti Samra, a psychologist.

“But you can see how one toxic person can make a whole workplace toxic.”

The devil in the 2006 film is Meryl Streep playing an erratic fashion magazine editor to Anne Hathaway’s hapless and mousy assistant.

Samra used the visual to drive home her data-don’t-lie-themed presentation about mental health in the workplace.

The statistics are indeed startling.

Seventy per cent of workplace disability costs are attributed to mental illness.

There’s an 80% overlap in physical ailments and mental illness and vice versa.

Untreated mental illness is more likely to kill you than smoking.

And one in five Canadians will experience a psychological or mental-health illness or illnesses in their lifetime.

“There is no such thing as stress leave or mental-health leave anymore,” said Vancouver-based Samra.

“It’s simply medical leave or health leave.”

The biggest component of a psychologically or mentally healthy workplace is kindness.

That’s why the aforementioned mean boss, disrespect, belittling, lack of direction and overwork are the cornerstones of stress, a toxic workplace and eventual mental illness.

To make her point, Samra mentioned the crudely titled but groundbreaking book “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.”

Samra chuckled when she revealed Shelagh Turner, executive director of the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, would call her book “How Not to Be a Dick.”

Samra said the book could also be simply titled “How to Be Kind.”

“A certain amount of stress is good for you. It makes you excited, engaged and productive,” said Samra.

“But different people have different thresholds for stress. The key is recognizing that, talk to someone when you get stressed and seek help as prevention to workplace mental illness.”

Healthy workplaces can happen organically or be the result of a focused initiative.

Companies looking to nourish workplace mental health can follow the 13 National Standards for Employee Well-Being that Samra helped develop and are on her website, The standards run the gamut from organizational culture, offering psychological support, clear leadership, civility and respect to fitting the right people to the right jobs, recognition and rewards, workload management and offering work-life balance.

“Well-balanced work is an important part of life, and work is immensely good for our mental health,” said Samra.

Tuesday’s breakfast saw three Mentally Healthy Workplace Awards handed out.

Starbucks won the big business category for creating healthy workplaces at its 13 cafes in Kelowna by supporting employees to be their best and providing help when they are not.

Software developer Two Hat Security picked up the mid-sized business award for setting a vision that clearly communicates the path to success and fosters an environment to innovate and fail in a quest to innovate, if necessary.

The small business category was won by Touchstone Law, which advocates three-times-a-week staff huddles and encourages employees to share concerns and ask for help any time.