A mentally healthy workplace puts the same importance on both the physical health and mental health of its employees.
Managers who are supportive, responsive, inspiring, and care about their employees’ mental well-being make a huge difference to their workplace culture.
Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Commission are focusing more on the mental health aspect of workplace safety. Businesses are legally required to take reasonable steps to ensure their employees’ safety and health is a top priority and have measures in place to minimise or eliminate risk.
Australian businesses spend $12.8 billion annually on mental health. So, it is not surprising that increasing numbers of employers are including mental health in their safety measures.
Current Mental Health Conditions
Since Covid-19, the way we work has changed drastically. Businesses have had to adapt in order to survive and continue operating. Results from a 2022 Headspace consultancy survey
showed that 99% of respondents said that they felt stressed at work. 40% of those who participated in the survey missed a week because of workplace stress.
Although 65% agreed that talking about the issue would be the best way to respond, 52% hesitated to discuss the topic for fear that they might lose their credibility. These results demonstrate the importance of businesses integrating mental health initiatives into their culture.
A greater expectation is that businesses should address and prioritise psycho-social risks. The Safe Work Code of Practice proposes a management framework that mirrors an operational risk approach.
While employee assistance programs can fulfil some requirements for managing health and well-being, they have historically been reactive to the damage that has already occurred. Early intervention is key to recognition and reducing these risks.
Factors That Contribute to Positive Workplace Mental Health
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that many positive outcomes can arise from businesses taking a proactive approach to mental health & wellbeing, including:
- Greater productivity;
- Reduced absenteeism;
- Strong performance levels;
- Higher staff retention;
The uncertain nature of the pandemic has caused anxiety and stress for many people. This can be exacerbated by worries about job security, finances, and the health of loved ones.
There are a number of workplace initiatives that can help employees deal with stress and demands. These include:
- Providing training on how to deal with stress;
- Offering counselling services;
- Implementing flexible work arrangements;
- Encouraging employees to take breaks during the day;
- Creating a supportive workplace environment;
How to Create a Positive Work Environment That Promotes Mental Wellness
Larger businesses might be able to hire a qualified mental health practitioner. However, smaller companies may find it more cost-effective to use peer support from a group of skilled team members.
These Are Some of The Factors That Can Help to Ensure Workplace Mental Wellbeing
- Assistance to the worker and the team;
- Proper training;
- Personal development opportunities;
- Resilience and support for coping strategies;
- Openness and regular reviews;
- Decision-making channels;
- Recognition and rewards;
- Purposeful work;
A Strategy for Mental Health and Wellbeing
A workplace that is healthy and supportive of its employees’ mental wellbeing can have a positive impact on productivity, engagement and overall workplace culture.
A lack of support from management or senior staff can make it difficult for employees to cope with stress, leading to absenteeism and even workplace accidents.
A workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy can help to address these issues by providing support and guidance for employees at all levels of the organisation. Such a strategy should be driven by leadership, with input from all employees, in order to be effective.
This process involves:
- Top-down organisational goal setting;
- Skills building and training;
- Developing policies, resources, and redesigning jobs;
- Implementation of key strategies for hazard mitigation;
- Individual mental health support (and planning);
EAP (Employee Assistance Program) is a confidential counselling service that employees can use to maintain or improve their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a proven method of increasing workplace productivity and decreasing employee attrition.
Companies and businesses that have EAP programs understand the importance of addressing employees’ mental and emotional well-being in order to create a productive workplace.
Tips for Managers and Employers to Create a Mentally Healthy Work Environment
Employers can make a significant impact on workplace mental health by offering support to employees and helping them to perform at their best.
Here are some of the ways managers and employers can make an impact on the mental health culture at work.
Education and Training
There are a variety of stress management techniques that can be used, and the best approach will vary from person to person. But with the right support, workplace stress can be managed effectively.
Providing training and educating your staff on how to be aware of the signs of stress in the workplace and how to take action to help each other manage their stress, is an important part of creating a strong workplace culture.
Ensure you have informal, regular conversations with your team. Managers can get to know their team members better, and it makes it easier for them to identify any changes in performance or behaviour.
Encourage Employees to Give Feedback
This can help them feel valued and help employers find any gaps in their mental health programs.
Encourage Physical Well-Being
Encourage your employees take breaks during the day, help them find ways to relax and de-stress, such as through exercise or meditation, and participate in team challenges. E.g., Dry July.
Put Mental Health Protocols and Policies in Place
Respect in the workplace isn’t just about getting along with others, though; it’s also about creating a space where everyone can do their best work. When we show respect for our colleagues, we’re more likely to collaborate effectively, solve problems creatively, and communicate openly.
Implement a strong culture that promotes respect between colleagues and clients. e.g., zero-tolerance discrimination policy.
Improve Work Design
Identify potential stressors and triggers that can improve the mental wellbeing in the workplace. Poor job clarity, unmet deadlines, insecure work conditions, poor workplace relationships, discrimination, and lack of support are all possible.
Provide Resources for Assistance
There are a number of workplace mental health resources available to staff and employees. These include support groups, counselling services, and employee assistance programs. Workplace mental health is an important issue, and these resources can help employees cope with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Be More Adaptable
If you have an employee returning to the workplace after a mental health break, it’s important to be flexible with their work hours. Ensure you accommodate to their needs, and be prepared to be flexible upon their return. Remember that your employees mental health is a priority and they must take the time needed to recover.
How has this impacted the insurance industry?
From a Workers Compensation perspective, insurance companies generally look favourably on larger companies if they have implemented strategies such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Recently, the insurance industry has seen quite a large number of stress related insurance claims, which generally take 1-2 years to manage. The cost of implementing an assistance program to avoid these stress related claims are generally far less than the impact of a stress claim through insurance.