The New Year is a great time to start to make your workplace more mental health friendly
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO believes mental health needs to be considered as important as physical safety in Australian workplaces. There are quick initial steps that can be taken to make your workplace more mental health friendly.
As the new business year starts, it is a great time to think about making your workplace more mentally healthy as this will benefit your staff, your productivity and your bottom line.
Australian research has shown job related depression costs the economy $730 million every year and this amount doesn't include workers compensation or people with anxiety. The biggest loss accruing to employers is through lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism.
The impact of depression in the workplace
Nearly three million people experience depression and/or anxiety each year and unlike many physical illnesses, these conditions impact on people during their prime working years.
The impact of depression in the workplace includes:
3 to 4 days off work per month for each person experiencing depression
$9660 in absenteeism and lost productivity costs per full-time employee with untreated depression each year
Stress-related workers' compensation claims have doubled in recent years, costing over $10 billion each year.
In Australia, work-related mental health disorders are the second most prevalent compensable occupational illness or injury representing 4.8% (2008-09) of all serious compensation claims, defined as claims resulting in at least one week absence from work.
These statistics show how important it is to have a mental health friendly workplace for productivity, profitability and staff retention.
Much has been done to improve the safety of workplaces but mental health safety has been largely ignored and the solutions are inexpensive and simple but require strong leadership.
The role of the leadership team
Senior leaders have a crucial role to play in creating a workplace culture that fosters good mental health. Recognising the reciprocal relationship between employees' mental health and their workplace, it is important that senior leaders promote, by example, a mental health friendly workplace.
How to achieve a mental health friendly workplace
1. Commit to a long-term approach
Create a mental health strategy that is consistent with the vision, mission and values of your organisation
Champion prevention, early intervention and awareness-raising strategies
2. Create a supportive workplace culture
A supportive workplace culture can influence a person to seek treatment early. How mental health problems are addressed in the workplace and how supported employees feel will affect morale.
A supportive culture can be developed by:
Engaging early and adopting a collaborative approach
Raising awareness of mental health
Viewing work as a part of the recovery process
3. Train and educate your staff
To effectively intervene and manage mental health in the workplace
To meet legal requirements
4. Get the balance right
Promote protective factors
Reduce or eliminate risk factors
Quick reference guide to action
Are all staff educated in relation to mental health?
Is our culture a collaborative one in relation to assisting staff to overcome difficulties?
Do senior staff know how to role model regarding early intervention for mental health problems?
Do our policies include mental health?
Do we have strong leadership in regards to mental health in the workplace?
Are our managers/staff trained in early intervention strategies?
Are the policies clear, easy to understand and accessible?
Are we aware of the mental health risks particular to our workplace?
What support mechanisms are in place for managers managing staff with mental health conditions?
Do the relevant staff know how to implement the policies?
Do we have a plan to minimise workplace mental health risks?
What external support is available to staff (e.g. EAP)?
Is mental health included in our health promotion initiatives?
Is everyone in the workplace aware of relevant legislative requirements?
Do we have policies in place regarding return to work and reasonable adjustments?
How beyondblue can help workplaces to achieve this
beyondblue has a number of resources to assist leaders in creating mentally health workplaces.
A suite of free eLearning resources have recently been released. These are available on the beyondblue website and can be accessed at any time.
Free printed resources can be ordered by visiting the beyondblue website or calling the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636.
The National Workplace Program is a series of workshops tailored for specific organisational levels that can be held at your workplace.
Kate was appointed CEO at beyondblue in 2012 and has been a Director of beyondblue since 2008. Previously, she was CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian General Practice Network and is a pharmacist by profession. She was elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1992 and was elected Chief Minister in March 1995 and re-elected in 1998.