Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness, absences, and long-term work incapacity in Australia.
A healthy workplace promotes well-being and aims to be a positive and productive environment for its staff. We spend most of our weekday hours at work – sometimes spending more time with our colleagues than our own family and friends, so it’s important that employers understand how mental health impacts their employees and their families.
Businesses are stepping up to support their teams by benchmarking mental health best practices to shape workplace policies and set in motion positive and long-term cultural change. Employers are aiming to create an inclusive culture that celebrates all people and their unique backgrounds and situations.
Preventative measures are vital tools in fostering positive workplace environments. Business should implement mental health action plans, have recovery programs in place to support employees with their mental health struggles, conduct mental health training for the entirety of their workforce and champion leaders that educate and advocate for staff well-being.
Human Resources Director Canada spoke to Dr Melisah Feeney in February 2022 about how to create a mentally healthy workplace. Dr Feeney is the principal consultant, organisation psychologist and executive coach at award-winning management consultancy, Bendelta.
“I think it is the assumption that mental health is really about mind over matter and that people suffering mental health problems are not trying hard enough to snap out of it” Dr Feeney said. “It’s like asking a person with a broken arm or leg to leave their injury at the front door and not bring it to work. It’s just not possible and absurd to even ask it of someone.”
It’s been proven that businesses that care about their employees’ mental health and wellbeing attract and retain the best and brightest talent. Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, as reported by Heads Up, shows that every dollar spent on fostering a positive workplace can, on average, result in a positive Return on Investment (ROI) of 2.3. The benefits come from a reduction in absenteeism, and compensation claims, as well as increasing work productivity. By investing in the creation of a mentally healthy workplace, staff morale will be higher, and employees will be more engaged and motivated.
A manager’s number one responsibility is to exemplify workplace culture by modelling and promoting what is accepted, tolerated, celebrated, or avoided in the workplace, when it comes to mental health policies. Employers also need to follow legislative requirements when it comes to mental health in the workplace. Employers and employees have rights and responsibilities under anti-discrimination, privacy, health and safety legislation.
Are you an employer wanting to ensure you’re creating a healthy workplace for you and your staff? Check out the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Toolkit from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Perhaps you are an employee that’s noticed someone in your workplace struggling with their mental health. Read through the information on the R U OK? website for important tips that can help you start an important conversation. For more immediate support, please contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue.