Three Keys To A More Mentally Healthy Workplace

Three Keys To A More Mentally Healthy Workplace

Results of a survey conducted earlier this year of 3500 Australian employees from 41 organisations revealed that one third were suffering from some form of mental illness, with 36 per cent suffering from depression, 33 per cent from anxiety and 31 per cent from stress.  The survey also showed that 53 per cent of employees would not feel comfortable disclosing their mental health condition to their manager.

The cost of untreated mental health conditions to Australian workplaces is significant equating to approximately $10.9 billion per year. This comprises $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims (PWC Report Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis).

So what can businesses do to build and maintain an environment more conducive to mental health and wellbeing? HeadsUp says there are three critical success factors

  1. Commitment from senior organisational leaders and business owners
  2. Employee participation
  3. Ongoing communication
 1. Commitment from Senior Organisational Leaders and Business Owners

Organisational leaders and business owners need to make visible, long-term commitments to mental health in their workplaces.

HeadsUp says leaders are in the strongest position to positively influence the working environment, management practices and the experience of employees.

Some key things that organisational leaders can do to show their commitment include:

  • Role model positive day-to-day behaviours and actions.
  • Ensure all senior leaders have a shared commitment and belief in the goal.
  • Commit human, financial and other resources.
2. Employee Participation

HeadsUp says the best strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace are based on a shared commitment between employers and employees. Employees must be engaged in every step, from planning, through to implementation and review.

Employees have first-hand experience of mental health risks and protective factors in the workplace, so they’re a great source of ideas. They can also help to prioritise what areas to tackle first and what actions will have the biggest impact.

The best change initiatives are informed and underpinned by the needs and inputs of employees – HeadsUp says that without these, they’re unlikely to succeed.

Some ways to ensure employee participation include:

  • Identify champions and supporters early. Keep them engaged throughout the process to help guide the strategy and communicate it across the organisation.
  • Encourage all staff to have a voice. Provide safe and open communication forums where they can express their opinions and start thinking about new ideas.
  • Provide open access to all information and progress made in developing and implementing the strategy.
  • Seek input and feedback at every phase.
3. Ongoing Communication

Communicating your organisational commitment, plans and actions to employees, clients and other stakeholders helps create a sense of collective ownership, as well as strengthening your business’s reputation.

Key actions include:

  • Provide regular ongoing communication to ensure all staff know what’s going on, as it’s important that they have a sense of ownership around changes and decisions being made.
  • Speak openly and often about why good mental health is important.
  • Encourage open discussions about emotions and mental health concerns to help reduce stigma.  Sharing case studies and/ or personal stories can be an effective way to do this.

HeadsUp recommends that all these strategies be codified in a dedicated organisational Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy, but says that other workplace policies should also recognise the importance of mental health.

HeadsUp offers a wide range of useful template policies, resources and information which organisations can download. View the website here.