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10 ways to address mental health in the workplace
How important is mental health in your company?
Although the answer may obviously be “very important”, the numbers show Australian businesses actually still have a long way to go. Work is the leading cause of stress for Australians. This, in turn, contributes to our nation’s mental health crisis, and so employers need to take action.
As work becomes more fast-paced, employers should take greater responsibility in cultivating a healthy workplace and prioritise employee wellbeing. With World Mental Health Day observed on 10 October - an important day for education and promoting awareness - we share some tips to help you better address mental health in the workplace.
How the work environment affects mental health
1 in 5 Australians suffer from mental illness in any given year, and approximately 8.7 million will suffer from mental illness at some stage in life. While many factors contribute to an individual’s mental health, an unhealthy workplace is one of the most significant.
The challenge of switching off, toxic work environments, pressure to meet deadlines or dealing with a micro-managing boss takes its toll on the mental health of your team. A recent report showed an incredible 78% of Australian employees regularly experience stress at work as a result of the work environment and culture. These people are 30% more depressed, 30% less happy, and 40% more anxious than their counterparts.
However, the cause of mental health issues goes beyond just having a bad boss or working overtime. Employees who aren’t engaged with their work, or feel their hard work isn’t being recognised, may also experience depression or anxiety on a regular basis.
Having an unhealthy workplace doesn’t just negatively affect workplace culture. Untreated mental health conditions also cost workplaces $10.9 billion annually through absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), and compensation claims.
Tips to improve mental health in the workplace
Investing in workplace mental health goes beyond meeting WHS obligations. Improving mental health also improves productivity, with every dollar spent on mental health returning 500% through improved output and reduced sick leave. Prioritising mental health also leads to improved retention rates, greater employee engagement and a more positive work culture.
With this in mind, here are 10 ideas you can implement to address mental health in the workplace:
- Download Heads Up’s Getting Started pack, which includes basic information to help create a more mentally healthy workplace.
- Start from the top. All initiatives should be championed by management to demonstrate your organisation’s dedication to mental health.
- Provide access to resources and support networks, such as Lifeline or other mental health services, or a company counselling service.
- Engage a workplace rehabilitation provider to identify any health and safety workplace risks, and help employees suffering from mental illness recover and return to work. This may be covered in your workers’ compensation policy.
- Implement a ‘no emails’ policy outside work hours, which extends to managers and teams. Employees who can fully switch off from work experience less anxiety and depression.
- Introduce flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours or remote working. This allows employees to manage all aspects of their life with less pressure, or better handle existing mental health conditions.
- Offer health benefits such as gym memberships, or lunchtime yoga classes. Employees that believe their employers care about employee wellbeing are 46% happier, and experience 25% less anxiety and depression.
- Use digital tools to help support mental health and empower employees, such as these apps to boost happiness or corporate wellness platforms like Sprout At Work.
- Engage a mental health expert to provide training or workshops for self-care or stress management.
- Combat stigma by encouraging leaders and managers to speak openly about mental health issues, or participate in fundraising events like Walk for Awareness.