Improving mental health in the workplace

Published: 16/10/2020

Improving mental health in the workplace

Most of us spend about one-third of our life at work. It makes up a big part of our daily lives and can, therefore, significantly impact our psychological health - both positively and negatively.

Mental ill-health costs Australian businesses a staggering $12.8 billion a year¹. So it comes as no suprise, a growing number of employers are making mental health a part of their safety plan.

Mental ill-health is now the leading cause of work absence and long-term work incapacity in the developed world. In Australia, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Australian adults will experience a mental health condition each year - that equates to over 3 million workers¹, a sizable portion of our total workforce.

According to Safe Work Australia, 7,200 Australians are compensated each year for work-related mental health conditions, with approximately $543 million paid in workers' compensation². Claims involving mental health conditions are also associated with above-average time off work and higher than average claim costs.

While these statistics are alarming, an increasing number of employers are now recognising the benefits of a mentally healthy work environment on both their staff and bottom line and are taking action to make a difference in their workplace.

What is a mentally healthy workplace?

A mentally healthy workplace is one that eliminates or minimises the risks of psychological harm, promotes and supports mental health and supports recovery after injury or illness. Under WHS legislation, this is the responsibility of employers.

The benefits of a mentally healthy workplace include:

  • Good mental health for individuals
  • Higher levels of staff productivity
  • Higher levels of staff morale, engagement and job satisfaction
  • Reduced workplace injuries and illness
  • Reduced staff turnaround - attract and retain top talent
  • Enhanced organisational resilience and success

COVID-19 and Mental Health

As a result of COVID-19, many businesses are facing a new and increased range of psychological hazards in the workplace. These can include:

  • Exposure to physical risks and poor environmental conditions, e.g. A lack of PPE
  • High work demands in many occupations, e.g. Frontline medical staff, delivery drivers working longer hours etc.
  • Increased remote/isolated work as more workers are operating from home
  • Poor workplace relationships, e.g. Lack of communication and decreased face-to-face interaction
  • Change in responsibilities and organisational restructures

Tips for employers and managers to create a mentally healthy workplace

Employers are in a powerful position to help change workplace attitudes towards mental health, offer the support employees need to work at their best and to build more engaged, resilient and sustainable businesses.

Here are a few ways employers and managers can make a big difference to the mental health culture in the workplace:

  • Training and Education - focus on educating all levels of staff about mental health in the workplace to help increase understanding, reduce any harmful stigmas and encourage open discussion in the workplace.
  • Open Communication - ensure you take some time to have regular, informal chats with your team. This allows managers to get to know each of their team members and can also make it easier to notice any changes in normal behaviour and performance.
  • Actively seek feedback - This can make employees feel more valued and help employers to uncover any gaps in existing approaches to mental health.
  • Support physical health - encourage employees to reduce their sitting time, organise corporate rates at local gyms, take part in team challenges, e.g. Steptember.
  • Set up mental health policies and protocols - create or improve systems that encourage a respectful culture amongst all colleagues and clients, e.g. Zero-tolerance discrimination policy.
  • Improve work design - identify and address any potential work stressors or triggers to mental ill-health in the workplace, e.g. Lack of support, poor job clarity, unreasonable deadlines, unsafe work conditions, poor workplace relationships, discrimination etc.
  • Offer support through resources - this can include access to mental health information, resources and support options, e.g. Employee assistance programs
  • Consider more flexibility - this can depend on the role; however, offering more flexibility around work hours and tasks can help encourage people to stay and return to the workplace while suffering from mental ill-health.

How Coverforce can help

Our experienced Coverforce Workplace Services (CWS) team can assist your business with embedding safe working processes and the identification of risks and hazards in your workplace. Contact them directly on (02) 9098 5500 to find out more.

Your local Coverforce Insurance Broker can provide your business with sound risk advice and quality insurance cover. For personalised advice, find your local broker here or by calling 1 3000 COVER.

The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.



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