5 Ways an eco-friendly working environment is good for your mental health

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), one in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem or illness each year, equating to 500,000 employees unable to work every week due to mental health problems or illnesses.

With increased awareness of the single-use plastic habits, accompanied by the brand audit done by Greenpeace Canada and their findings released on October 9, 2018 showcasing the biggest polluters and continuous headlines on how companies can do their part in reducing their carbon footprint, it urges all business to take a look at their own green initiatives. The latest proposal to ban single-use plastic in Ontario adds more spotlight to the pollution crisis facing the planet today.

Mental wellness is directly related to employee productivity.

Internal stressors from work deadlines to the personal challenges of employees all contribute to the day to day hustle faced in the corporate world. External stressors like the economy, the current political climate and the scientific forecasts about the destruction of the earth can weigh heavily on employees and employers alike. The impact of such worrisome influences, consciously or subconsciously will negatively impact job performance and subsequently result in more sick days and monetary losses. By actively implementing programs to reduce the stressors that companies have control over, we can mitigate some of these factors.


Set up a survey on what the most important eco-initiatives are for your company. It could be as simple as composting bins to elaborate LEED certification. Ask for a volunteer to champion the focus group and find out what financial government incentives could be gained from larger projects.

By asking employees their opinion, leadership creates value in their employees and ensures that their ideas and suggestions are heard. Following through and giving the volunteer group as much autonomy and support to run it as they see fit, will increase their sense of worth. When the project is completed, ongoing support for a job well done will go a long way in creating future enthusiasm for corporate projects.


In a 2018 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) it was found that, on average, each litre of bottled water sold contained 325 pieces of microplastic, including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethene terephthalate. In one case, a bottle of Nestlé Pure Life contained more than 10,000 pieces of microplastic.

The alternative? Bring back the water cooler. Watercooler talk happens when colleagues take a break from work-related tasks to hydrate. This activity means actually getting up from your seat, walking to the water cooler and connecting with other people in the office while waiting in line to fill up your cup. Conversations around this station are usually about hobbies, interests and give employees the chance to have that mental break.

Go one step further and issue each employee with a reusable cup or bottle with the company’s logo. Psychologically employees will start to associate hydration, interaction and connection with their place of work, thereby instilling a more positive attitude towards their work environment. Isolation in our digital age is one of the biggest contributing factors of depression that could lead to more absenteeism or turnover. The physical health of the employees will also benefit from staying hydrated and lowering the intake of micro-plastics through bottled water.


The Guardian published a study on September 10, 2018, to illustrate the collective concern about the environment as viewed by consumers, "The number one issue for British shoppers in the next decade will be to reduce packaging and use more recyclable materials, according to new research. For perhaps the first time, the public puts environmental considerations around plastic waste above the price of goods when shopping.

The research, carried out by ThoughtWorks, found that 62% of the 2,000 people surveyed were concerned with the need to reduce plastic packaging and use materials which were recyclable, while 57% said the price would be the main driver for their purchases in the next 10 years."

Employees are consumers and there is a collective awareness of the impact that we are having on the environment as is evident from this study. There are a lot of variables in business that, despite our best efforts, we cannot control. Layoffs happen, the economy takes an overall hit or specific industries are buried under tariffs due to political decisions, all factors out of our control.

It could become simply too overwhelming for employees to give one hundred percent while they are at work when they are faced with all the potential difficulties that lie ahead.

In our current culture of overthinking and exhaustion, taking control over a small, manageable and doable aspect of our jobs create calm and renewed energy.

Companies are able to control the amount of single-use plastics, carpooling or nutritious no-waste paid company lunch-and-learns. These will also save the company money in the long run by investing in quality reusables.

By setting the example of tackling one item at the time, businesses take the lead and show employees that they are able to handle obstacles by starting with one thing that they have control over and finding a sustainable solution.


In 2017, nearly 7 million Canadians usually worked 40 hours per week. The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. The working environment contributes greatly to the mental wellness of employees and perception is reality. If employees feel that the company they work for is only interested in the bottom line with complete disregard for other factors such as the wellbeing of the planet, it trickles down to a perceived no-care attitude for employees.

If all other factors were equal, employees will more likely stay at a business that contributes to the greater good than those who do not. The best companies to work for are usually rated on the following criteria: work-life balance; salary and benefits; job security and advancement; and management and culture. A culture that promotes inclusiveness and environmentally friendly initiatives will create a more loyal workforce than those who do not.


Mindfulness in business is a holistic approach to the wellbeing of the employees and the environment without sacrificing productivity or profitability. The principle of becoming mindful of our actions and reactions can lead to increased employee engagement, tranquillity and harmony. Business becomes mindful by doing research on the best practices in a green, circular economy.

Lowering stress by taking action and implementing sustainable changes and connection not only to employee ideas and suggestions, colleagues connecting to each other, but also tuning into the collective concerns of our global footprint. Mental health is promoted when we feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that we are truly making a difference.

Conduct a post-change survey every six months and get a sense of how employee attitudes have changed since implementing the eco-friendly options, their takeaways and thoughts. This is a great human resource tool to keep on top of one aspect of employee wellness as it relates to job satisfaction unrelated to their job title or workload.  

Committing to an eco-friendly working environment is an ongoing process, but well worth it.

"We don't have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment." Dennis Weaver

How is your business part of the pollution solution?







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