Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces

Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces

Australian employees are stressed out, overweight, unfit and often have cholesterol or blood pressure problems according to a report released by the Workplace Health Association of Australia recently.

The research, which was conducted in conjunction with the University of Wollongong, examined the health characteristics of nearly 30,000 Australian workers gathered from workplace health assessments over the past decade and revealed gloomy news on the mental health front.

The researchers found that 65 per cent of employees have moderate to high stress levels and 41 per cent had psychological distress levels considered to be at-risk, with women at greater likelihood of experiencing high psychological distress than men.

CEO of the Workplace Health Association of Australia, Doctor John Lang, says the findings are a cause of concern:

“This is an alarming insight into the poor levels of health experienced by most Australian workers. It highlights the urgency to deliver preventative actions in the workplace.”

Lead investigator on the study Christopher Magee from the University of Wollongong, said the results were a strong indication of the deterioration in psychological health of Australian workers.

“The research findings emphasise the importance of addressing the rising cost and social impact of mental health problems to employers, communities and the health care system,” he said.

The good news is there is plenty that employers can do to build a mentally healthy workplace and the cost of implementing these programs is well worth the investment. In fact PwC research has shown that for every $1 organisations spend on employee mental health initiatives they receive a return of $2.30.

What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?

According to the mental health in the workplace initiative, a mentally healthy workplace promotes a positive workplace culture, minimises workplace risks related to mental health, supports people with mental health conditions appropriately and prevents discrimination.

The website says that while the majority of job roles and working environments do have some stressors or risk factors for mental health, employers have a legal responsibility to reduce risks to the mental health of individuals so far as is reasonably practicable for their workplace.

The good news for employers is that the actions that promote good mental health in the workplace are the same as those that contribute to a productive and positive working environment, leading to greater staff morale, lower staff attrition rates and greater productivity.

What can employers do?

The good news is that there is plenty of ways employers can work to improve employee mental health. have put together a list of 10 easy ideas which organisations can try without a huge outlay of resources:

  1. Increase awareness of mental health conditions by making information available in the workplace.
  2. Increase awareness of mental health responsibilities by providing information on how everyone can look after their own mental health.
  3. Reduce stigma by speaking openly about mental health and by encouraging others to do the same.
  4. Be prepared to help by building skills and confidence so you can approach someone who may be experiencing mental difficulties.
  5. Encourage staff to seek treatment, nearby mental health services and information lines can provide support and resources.
  6. Support staff with mental health conditions by changing their role or environment to help them stay at or return to work.
  7. Monitor and manage workloads and encourage people to speak up early if they are struggling and seek guidance.
  8. Gain more staff input by finding out how people do their work and by listening to their ideas on better ways of working.
  9. Prevent bullying and discrimination and promote an environment of dignity and respect.
  10. Provide regular feedback and be sure to recognise good work and highlight areas of improvement.

Visit to download a copy of this infographic

For more information on how to build a mentally healthy workplace and what your legal rights and responsibilities as an employer are visit the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance’s website

This Better Workplace Bulletin was first published in August 2015