October 2021 is mental health month.

How to promote positive mental wellbeing in your workplace

Maintaining a positive and healthy mindset can be challenging as it is and now with our day to day lives having been layered with the pandemic, this challenge has only escalated.

According to Safe Work Australia, each year over 7,000 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions – this equates to approximately 6% of workers’ compensation claims.

In dollar terms, around $543m is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.

Apart from the visible monetary costs, there are also many other indirect costs associated with work-related mental health stress.  These include:

  • High rates of absenteeism/sick leave (20 times more sick days are taken by workers with severe depression)
  • Poor work quality & lost work-place productivity
  • High-staff turnover

Then there’s the stress that the employee takes home with them which many cause relationships and family units to break-down.

What can cause poor mental well-being?

While there are many reasons and causes for work-related mental health issues, the more common ones include (Safe Work Australia):

  • Work pressure (31%)
  • Work-related harassment and/or bullying (27%)
  • Exposure to workplace or occupational violence (14%)
  • Other mental stress (9%)
  • Exposure to a traumatic event (7%)
  • Vehicle accident (3%)
  • Being assaulted (3%), and
  • Sexual/racial harassment (2%)

Also, it’s important to note that the physical conduct of the workplace can and will contribute to work-related mental health stress.  This would include unsafe work practices, employees being forced to do something that they’re not comfortable with, lack or no physical protective equipment and a generally unsafe work environment.

And as mentioned earlier, the pandemic has exacerbated work-place related mental health issues.

Being locked down gave many affected people a lot of time (too much time) to think about their workplace challenges, which possibly intensified their negative feelings.

However, for every challenge there are actions employers can take to minimise the chances of workplace mental health issues from cropping up.

 

Good practices in supporting mental health in the workplace

There are some very clear and low cost workplace initiatives that employers can adopt and implement to improve and enhance workplace harmony, stability and an atmosphere of positive mental wellbeing.

Work towards a culture of openness

This might be very hard for some businesses, simply because the owners/managers may not have grown up in such an environment.

Yet, if you are willing and open to accept this first step, then the rewards will be a win-win for everyone.

Suggestions:

  • Having a well-documented and easy to understand mental health policy is your first step towards commitment. And you don’t need to do this on your own – this is where involving a professional to help craft your policy will pave the way for all your other actions.
  • Make your employees aware that it is safe for them to discuss mental health problems without fear of job loss, harassment or isolation.
  • Provide mental health awareness training – again a professional HR agency will be able to develop a program that works for you and your business needs.
  • Actively support employees experiencing mental health problems at work and where necessary assist their return to work.

Understand work/life balance is a real need

The one learning from the pandemic for business owners and leaders was that it is possible to have employees work from home (where applicable) and still be productive.

Work/life balance became a reality.

Suggestions:

  • Show trust and respect and acknowledge that people do have a right to a fulfilled life inside and outside work.
  • Consider offering flexible working opportunities such as flexitime, part-time work, job share and ongoing working from home arrangement.

Look at your company culture

Company cultures can make or break employee wellness.

Micromanagement, overworking and competition among staff can lead to unwanted toxic work dynamics that can seriously affect your workforce.

Various research has shown that a toxic work environment is linked to depression and other health conditions.

Suggestions:

  • Give your employees some autonomy to carry out their tasks (again, with the bounds of safe work protocols and procedures).
  • Offer a genuine and caring support system that employees can call on when needed.
  • Reward and recognition programs that are aligned with the core values of the business – this way you reward for the desired behaviours and you can address improper behaviours in an objective way.

Establishing a positive mental health culture in any business is easier said than done, however, it does not mean that we should not be working towards this goal – especially now.

Resources

A great starting point for business is by completing the Workplace Pulse Check from the NSW Government. [link to https://www.nsw.gov.au/mental-health-at-work/workplace-pulse-check]

By completing this pulse check, you’ll have an idea of some practical actions you can take to improve and enhance the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.

Or, If you’re not sure where to start and how to go about it, then contact Safety Services Australia today, (02) 9634 5912.