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Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace

Article prepared: 18 August 2014

The Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) has recently urged businesses to step up and make mental health and wellbeing a priority for staff and management. One in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness over the next 12 months and millions of Australians believe their workplace is not mentally healthy. This is contributing to stress and anxiety, which can fuel a large volume of sick leave. An organisation that pays attention to this information and works to promote positive workplace mental health will achieve more through increased understanding, morale and even productivity.

Mental Illness in the Workplace

Mental well-being expert, Graeme Cowan, found that 34% of lost productivity is caused by depression and stress disorders, however 86% of employees with stress or depression choose to suffer in silence and businesses suffer as a result. That suffering can often be in the form of mental stress claims. Safe Work Australia’s 2013 report revealed that the most common categories for mental stress claims include:

  • Work pressure (33%)
  • Work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying (22%)
  • Exposure to workplace or occupational violence (21%)

Businesses that don’t give the right support to the mental health and well-being of personnel may also lay the foundations for a mentally unhealthy workplace, resulting in employees experiencing any or all of the following:

  • high levels of stress
  • anxiety
  • a sense of isolation
  • concentration problems
  • low self-confidence, energy, and morale
  • a reduction in output and performance
  • inability to make decisions
  • sleep disturbance
  • hypersensitivity

What can you do about it?

A strong degree of education and understanding regarding mental health and stress in the workplace is a first step toward the proactive management of typical stressors that may be negatively impacting the work environment. 

The next step would be to focus on the provision of workplace resources – including a mental health policy, wellness program and intranet materials. These would support employees in understanding their own and their employer’s position, the rights and obligations that can stem from an employee suffering from a mental health disorder and allow employees to anonymously access employer-endorsed resources. This education can help employees take positive actions to accommodate an illness and the recovery process into their work environment and job role.

These measures would assist greatly in easing concerns about stigma and encouraging employees to take a proactive approach in managing their illness, with the support of their employer. 

Finally, it is important that organisations work towards preventative measures that promote a psychological safe and healthy environment, alleviating the potential for psychological risk. Preventative measures can include the provision of flexible working arrangements, mentoring / peer support programs, specialised training (e.g. stress management, having difficult conversations, managing conflict), and the regular recognition of achievements.

How can PSB Solutions support your business?

PSB Solutions consists of a team of consultants, with qualifications in Organisational Psychology. Our knowledge and expertise can support your business in taking the right steps toward making your workplace mentally safe and healthy. Our services include:

  • Mental Health Awareness workshops.
  • Developing customised Psychological Health Strategies, with tailored psychosocial risk assessments.
  • Providing lunch and learn awareness sessions to the workforce.
  • Stress Management and Enhancing Communication workshops aimed at leadership and/or the workforce.
  • Providing management support and coaching.

For more information, or if you would like to discuss what you’ve read today, please contact us on (08) 6272 3900 or email us.

References:

Cowan, Graeme (2013). The Elephant in the Boardroom: getting mentally fit for work. 

Safe Work Australia (2013).  Incidence of Accepted Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Stress in Australia.