Workplace mental health and wellbeing

As you are reading this, one in six Australian workers will be experiencing a mental illness. Many others will be experiencing the initial signs of mental illness including insomnia, worry and fatigue. Workplace mental health is a very real problem for business owners and staff.

Depression and anxiety are now the leading causes of long-term sickness absence in the developed world. When it comes to workplace mental health, they are also associated with ‘presenteeism’, where an employee remains at work despite their condition causing significantly reduced productivity. In Australia alone, poor mental health at work is estimated to cost the economy over $12 billion each year. This includes over $200 million worth of workers compensation claims.

While the dollar values are striking, there is a significant human cost as well surrounding workplace mental health. We know that meaningful employment is integral to recovery from mental illness. Yet there is a tendency for these individuals to be marginalised from the workforce. In reality, research shows that the majority of mental illness seen in the workforce is treatable, and possibly even preventable.

From an organisational perspective, addressing mental health in the workplace can increase productivity, and employee engagement. For the individual, it means a healthy, balanced life and psychological wellbeing. The benefits of a mentally healthy workforce are crystal clear. “A mentally healthy workplace is one in which risk factors are acknowledged and addressed, and protective factors are fostered and maximised.”

Practical strategies to increase workplace wellbeing

A recent research review from The Black Dog Institute has identified a number of interventions that are effective in reducing significant mental illness in the workplace. These include the following:

=> Increasing employee control through implementation of multi-level working committees and greater employee input into work hours and location.

=> Consider workplace health promotion strategies that include both physical activity incentives and mental health awareness and education. Programs that involve cognitive behaviour therapy and relaxation training have been shown to have an effect in previous studies.

> Implement resilience training for high risk occupations such as those exposed to significant levels of trauma or stress.

> In-house workplace counselling may be of benefit, as is the provision of formal return to work programs.

> Provision of peer support schemes or other ways to ensure staff are able to seek help early if needed.

For more information and resources regarding mentally healthy workplaces, visit:

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