New report suggests workplace mental health solutions

A new report by the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute suggests Australia’s productivity is suffering because too many businesses are not taking action on mental health.

A new report by the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute suggests Australia’s productivity is suffering because too many businesses are not taking action on mental health.

The report, Developing a Mentally Healthy Workplace: A review of the literature, was produced by the UNSW and the Black Dog Institute for the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. It identifies six success factors for a mentally healthy workplace and a five-step process for embedding them. 

Launching the report at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle event in Sydney this week, Prof. Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, said poor mental health is a significant burden on our economy. 

“The direct financial impact of mental ill-health on Australian businesses is in the vicinity of $11 billion every year, largely due to absenteeism and reduced productivity,” Fels said. “The opportunity cost of not promoting good mental health at work, and not supporting people who have mental illness or care for others who do is therefore very, very high. Nonetheless, almost all of us have witnessed people and practices in the workplace that ignore the needs of individuals or sometimes the whole team, and the resulting impacts such as staff turnover, absenteeism, low productivity and poor morale. 

“In an economy struggling to increase productivity, reducing the huge impact of mental ill-health must be a priority. It’s important for businesses of all sizes to step up and take action, because you will only make things better, both for your people and for your bottom line.” 

“Workplaces are a prime location to base mental health programs,” adds Dr Sam Harvey, Black Dog Institute researcher and Consultant Psychiatrist. “By implementing good quality mental health management across all levels of business, we will not only improve productivity but reduce the unacceptably high rates of mental ill health among Australians.” 

The report recommended the following six success factors for a mentally healthy workplace. 

1.  Smarter work design: Enhancing flexibility around working hours and encouraging employee involvement. 

2.   Building better work cultures (organisational resilience): Encouraging a culture of flexibility, building a safe and positive work climate, implementing anti-bullying policies, enhancing organisational justice, promoting team-based interventions such as employee participation and providing group support, manager training and managing change effectively. 

3.  Building individual resilience: Providing resilience training, coaching and mentoring, and physical activity programs. 

4.  Promoting and facilitating early help-seeking: Conducting well-being checks once appropriate support and resources are in place, providing stress management for workers with reported stress, using of Employee Assistance Programs which utilise experienced staff and evidence-based methods and peer support schemes. 

5.  Supporting recovery: Providing a supportive environment, providing supervisor support and training, facilitating flexible sick leave arrangements, providing return-to-work programs, encourages individual placement support for those with severe mental illness. 

6.  Increasing awareness: Providing mental health education and training. 

The report also suggests that creating a mentally healthy workplace requires an ongoing, staged approach. The five key steps are: 

  • Establishing commitment, leadership and support.
  • Conducting a situational analysis – looking at what is working and what isn’t.
  • Identifying and implementing the workplace mental health strategy.
  • Reviewing outcomes.
  • Adjusting intervention strategies. 

The full report can be found here. 

What is your approach to a mentally healthy workplace? We invite you to leave your comments below... 

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