Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Bill Howatt is the chief of research on work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada

Most of us have watched Sesame Street and are familiar with the song One of These Things. I can tell you from living with a mental illness my entire life that I’ve felt “not like the others,” resulting in me personally feeling isolated and alone in the workplace.

Having expertise in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I know that it’s impossible to remove all my anxiety. The key is to continue to learn how anxiety manages me. Despite all my training and years of working in mental health, there still are days when I just don’t feel comfortable sharing how I’m feeling. And at times when I do, I can tell the people around me aren’t quite sure how to react.

Story continues below advertisement

That may seem a bit odd, since I talk openly about my mental health. But perhaps not so unusual. Even with all the talk on stigma and some minor improvements, I feel like I’m taking a risk being honest about how I feel. If I struggle living with a mental health illness with all my support and resources, I can’t imagine how hard it is for the 20 per cent of our work force who are dealing with a mental health challenge.

This microskill is part of a series focused on exploring the different kinds of barriers that can contribute to employees experiencing perceived isolation in the workplace. Want to learn more? Take five minutes to complete this confidential self evaluation and get your results in real time.

You can read more microskills at

The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Register for the 2020 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at: This series of articles supports the award.

Read about the 2019 winners of the award and watch a video from the winners here. You can also purchase the benchmark report that outlines findings from 2019 at this link.

Download our e-books: Inch by Inch, Make Life a Cinch; Little Steps to Big Change; Staying Afloat.


I believe we need more senior leaders to pause and think about how many employees are feeling isolated daily because of stigma associated with having a mental health challenge. This is even before a pandemic has sent people home to be socially isolated – something that can challenge anyone’s mental health if they’re not prepared.

Too many senior leaders, middle managers, frontline leaders and peers just don’t have the knowledge, skills and sometimes desire to support someone in the workplace dealing with a mental illness. As a result, they’re not clear on how to be a psychologically safe leader.

“Mental health issues affect employees’ ability to see that they are not alone. Feeling alone does not equate to being alone,” says André Latreille, ombudsman for mental health at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

What most of us want is to feel safe and welcomed to share how we’re feeling. A few kind words and a smile can often help more than many understand, says Mr. Latreille.


We each own our mental health. However, there’s evidence that employers’ actions can have a positive impact, as was reported in a Deloitte report on workplace mental health programs that showed investing in mental health over the long term can generate a positive return on investment.

“Loneliness and social isolation should be a significant concern to all employers. There is a direct correlation between loneliness and growing workplace mental health issues. And, it typically results in weaker productivity, engagement and morale, not to mention higher disability and prescription drug costs,” says Joe Blomeley, an executive vice-president at insurance firm Green Shield Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

This suggests that employer action can have a positive impact on employees coming to work with a mental health concern. Progress on this concern around isolation and mental health can be positively affected when employers get the connection and act.


Employees with a mental health concern can evaluate how psychologically safe they feel in their workplace to share how they feel or to ask for help. Having one person in my life whom I can talk to daily about how I feel is critical for me.

If you don’t already have an individual in your workplace you can confide in, find someone, so you’re not alone. Context is important. An objective third person may help you evaluate your perspective, process information, and make an action plan.

Employers can help employees coming to work with a mental health concern by talking about how important social connections are to remove stigma. “We should focus on supporting employees to have meaningful social connections between individuals. As well, have strategies to support employees in time of need, such as providing clinically validated support tools, such as [internet-based CBT], underpinned by a coherent and integrated mental health strategy,” says Mr. Blomeley.

It can be difficult to manage a mental health challenge when you feel isolated and alone. The good news for employers is it doesn’t take a lot of work to be intentional and caring for a lot of financial and productivity upside.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies