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18. Our journey to the Order of Excellence for mental health at work

Introduction. After a six-year journey, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) received the Order of Excellence from Excellence Canada in 2021 for the implementation of its Mental Health @ Work Framework. Ontario Shores is only one of two healthcare organizations to reach this level of achievement. 


Learning Objectives. By the end of the presentation, participants will be able to: 


1) Explain how to use standards and frameworks, including the LEADS framework, to implement and sustain a workplace mental health strategy; 

2) Foster psychological health and safety by exploring the needs, opportunities, and data that exists within their organizations; and 

3) Leverage the lessons learned from Ontario Shores to implement a workplace mental health strategy designed to support better health outcomes for their healthcare teams. 


Methods. A gap analysis was performed using the Mental Health @ Work Framework from Excellence Canada to identify areas of strength and areas of opportunity to create a robust Integrated Wellness Strategy at Ontario Shores. The criteria in the framework focused on four main areas: Leadership, People Engagement, Planning and Programs, Process and Risk. 


Activities. A multi-year corporate action plan led by the organization’s senior management team addressed the areas of opportunity related to four main areas of mental health at work that emerged from the gap analysis. The action plan mobilized resources related to Communications, Learning and Organizational Development, Human Resources, Occupational Health and Safety, and Risk Management. 


Innovations. Ontario Shores created a Psychological Health Index (PH Index) to measure and monitor the fifteen psychosocial factors of workplace mental health in healthcare organizations. The trend data was used to evaluate the efficacy of the Integrated Wellness Strategy activities. 


Outcomes. The multi-year corporate action plan implemented programs and activities to further support its Integrated Wellness Strategy, such as digital or on-site cognitive behavioural therapy for employees; Joy-at-Work Boards for teams; the Eat Well. Live Well. cafeteria program; the Safe Workplace Committee; resilience training; the Innovation Fund Program; and the Leadership Development Strategy. 


Results. Using the Excellence Canada framework and evaluation process, Ontario Shores first achieved gold level recognition in 2017, followed by platinum in 2019, then culminating in the Order of Excellence in 2021. In addition, trend data from the PH Index over the six-year period remains steady for the majority of the psychosocial factors for workplace mental health with small gains being made in the following factors: Organizational Culture, Civility and Respect, Reward and Recognition, Engagement, Work Life Balance, and Protection from Moral Distress. 


Conclusion. The use of a standard or framework to which an organization can measure itself against is helpful in identifying best practices for supporting mental health at work for healthcare workers. 

Leadership lesson learned. Start with the end in mind by identifying indicators related to wellness and workplace mental health and setting incremental targets each year for increasing those indicators. Build leadership capability to support employee psychological health and safety.



John Chen - Chief Operating Officer, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences

Andrea Marshall - Director, Communications, Volunteer Services and the Centre of Education and Organizational Development, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences

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