Why create a mentally healthy workplace?

Why Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace?

Research tells us that, due to its prevalence, mental illness is affecting your business right now, or has the capacity to do so. At any point in time, one in six working-age people is living with a mental illness.
Mental health conditions are a real issue that has a significant impact on our society individually, socially, and economically. A survey of over 5000 Australian workers indicated that 25% of workers took time off each year for stress-related reasons. These figures result in a drastic drain on the Australian economy with costs ranging from $10 to $15 billion annually due to health expenses, reduced workforce participation, and decreased productivity in the workplace.
An ‘unhealthy’ work environment or a workplace incident can cause considerable stress and exacerbate, or contribute to, the development of mental illness. It is becoming more and more evident that job stress and other work-related psychosocial hazards are emerging as the leading contributors to the burden of occupational disease and injury in Australia.
Mental health workers’ compensation claims cost approximately $145 million annually and work pressure is cited to account for around half of all psychological injury claims. Beyond that, it is believed there are more people experiencing mental health challenges ranging from high stress to undiagnosed depression.
There is a clear economic case for improving the mental health and wellbeing of an organisation’s workers. If your organisation isn’t incorporating mental health considerations into your strategy, then you’re falling behind, both in terms of your workplace culture and the costs you’re adding to your business.

A Mentally Healthy Workplace is Good for Workers – and Great for Business!
Mentally Healthy Workplaces:

  • Reduce costs associated with absenteeism and high turnover
  • Improve employee engagement, morale and retention
  • Increase ability to attract good staff
  • Improve productivity which can result in improved financial performance
  • Reduce workers’ compensation claims and insurance premium costs
  • Reduce litigation and fines for breaches of health and safety laws, and
  • Reduce discrimination claims.
  • Increasing motivation, as supportive workplaces inspire employee loyalty

In fact, studies show a $2.30 return for every $1 invested in workplace mental health (superfriend.com.au).

Furthermore, You Have a Legal Obligation to do so

Every business has a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This includes both physical and mental health; occupational health and safety involves psychological injury prevention.

As your employees have no obligation to disclose their personal experiences with you, it’s impossible to target mental health efforts in the workplace to just those who are affected by mental illness. Instead, a broad approach is required to ensure that your workplace is one that supports and promotes your employees’ wellbeing.

Businesses can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. Through sound management practices that encourage open discussion around mental illness, support, and coaching to enable team members to feel valued and empowered in their roles.

It’s the Right Thing to do

Last, but definitely not least, creating a workplace that’s positive towards your employees’ mental health is simply the right thing to do. Understand that your employees aren’t infallible; that they will experience struggles during their time working with you. In addition, work can be helpful to those going through challenges if your working environment is positive.

“Good work can support and encourage participation for people with non-work-related mental health conditions and can help to improve their mental health,” explains a Safe Work Australia spokesperson.

Where to Start?

Many businesses find the concept of mental health challenging to deal with. There are three strong actions you can take towards mental health at work:

  • Workplace training is one of the most effective ways to build long-term mental health and wellbeing capability in your workplace. It creates a positive cultural change that is essential for building a thriving workplace environment that supports high-performing, cohesive and innovative teamwork.
  • Introduce a workplace formalised process of workplace support by introducing a coaching philosophy and train your managers in how to spot potential mental health issues within their teams but also how to approach and have a discussion with a team member about their mental health. 
  • Conduct a risk assessment (similar to your physical risk assessment process) of your workplace, work systems, and processes. “The assessment should specifically look for hazards and risks that can impact on mental health. For example, factors such as workload and levels of job control and autonomy should be examined,” says a spokesperson for Safe Work Australia.

The question, then, is not how to justify the establishment of formalised workplace support,
but how to justify not doing it.

Why Do We Need Mentally Healthy Workplaces?

  • Workplace claims for mental injury in Australia average $24,500 compared to $9000 for all other claims
  • The average time off for a mental injury is 15.3 weeks compared to 5.5 weeks for all other claims
  • The total cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health is $12.8 billion each year
  • Only 20% of employers offer mental health awareness initiatives and training, however 88% of employees want more dialogue around mental health

(The Mentally Healthy Work Place Alliance Report PwC 2014)

Happy Call Centre Staff

The benefits are strong:

  • If employers can deliver mentally healthy workplaces they could realistically see workforce participation rates improve by 30%
  • Companies that improve their workplaces & invest time, resources and money into their employee's mental wellness are likely to expect a return of $2.30 for every one dollar invested (PwC, 2014)
  • Committed employees are 87% less likely to resign (statistics courtesy of Allianz’s Awareness into Action Report, Jan 2019)
  • Employees who feel they are cared for are engaged employees, with measurable differences in performance and customer retention (See Prosell White Paper – Employee Engagement and Improved Performance)
4 Happy Call Centre Staff
Happy Call Centre Staff
4 Happy Call Centre Staff

Learn More About Mentally Healthy Workplaces

What Is A Mentally Healthy Workplace?

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