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Managing people

10 tips for creating a healthy workplace environment

Boost productivity in your organisation with these ten tips to create a workplace mental health strategy.

Caring for your employees’ mental health in the workplace is an important part of building a positive culture in your organisation, and can help increase productivity, boost staff morale, and improve retention.

There’s a growing awareness in Australia around mental health and the workplace, however, we still have a long way to go. Mental health in the workplace statistics shows that while 91% of employers believe in the importance of mental health in the workplace, only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy.

As an employer, a healthy workplace environment is key, so employees feel supported and know where to go if they’re suffering from mental health conditions. From planning to policies, training and programs, these ten tips can help you create a healthier work environment for your employees.

1. Conduct a workplace audit to identify practices that may contribute to issues around mental health in the workplace

By doing this, you can identify any risks or issues that need to be addressed in order to create a more positive environment, and begin to build your workplace mental health strategy to reduce or eliminate these.

2. Build a workplace Mental Health Plan

Your organisation should provide support to employees who may be suffering from a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression in the workplace. By having a Mental Health Plan, you can create guidelines on how to develop a mentally healthy workplace, and make sure your organisation is prepared with the right policies, procedures and training to handle any mental health conditions.

There are plenty of templates to help employers build this, including guidelines for creating a mental health policy to help managers and employees understand and manage mental health in the workplace.

3. Create an Incident Response Plan to help employees understand how to manage mental health conditions at work

This can include a set of instructions designed to help managers and other employees identify signs of mental illness in the workplace, and understand how to respond and what actions they may need to take. 

Employees and managers should receive training on this plan, as well as regular access to this plan in case they need more information.

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4. Offer support and services to employees with an Employee Assistance Program

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are free and confidential counselling services employees can use to support their wellbeing, both at work and at home. By providing this in your organisation, employees will have access to the help they need to understand any issues they are facing, and the next steps they can take.

With your EAP, advocacy is key. While 81% of leaders say they have policies and practices in place to help employees suffering from mental illness in the workplace, more than a third of employees say they aren’t aware of these services or can’t access them. To counter this, regularly survey your employees to measure their awareness and the program’s effectiveness.

5. Provide flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees who are living with mental illness

Flexible work arrangements could help reduce the rate of absenteeism, which can often occur when employees are suffering from mental health conditions. These should be tailored to your organisation or to an individual employees’ needs and can include reduced or remote work hours, or additional paid or unpaid leave.

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6. Have a system in place for handling absences, whether they’re unexplained or due to mental illness

In addition to having the right policies in place, and potentially providing flexible arrangements, managers need to know how to handle absences due to mental illness, and how to cater to employees who are living with mental illness – especially if they are returning to work.

7. Provide support for managers so they are equipped to handle challenging conduct and performance

Each employee is different and so is the way they manage any mental health conditions or disorders. Managers should be well-equipped with the right information and tools to be able to manage individual issues in employee conduct and performance in a constructive way, particularly if they’re aware that an employee is suffering from a mental illness or condition. 

8. Understand your legal obligations when managing employees who are suffering from a mental illness

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to help any employees who are suffering from mental health conditions in the workplace, and help ensure they don’t suffer any discrimination as a result of any mental illness. This includes having policies and procedures to help manage mental health conditions in the office, as well as non-disclosure for privacy reasons.

If you’re unsure, consider seeking legal advice from Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors around mental health in the workplace and managing an employee’s return to work.

9. Ensure your organisation knows how to effectively respond if an employee can’t carry out their tasks

Mental illness can affect an employee’s ability to carry out their roles and responsibilities, and managers and leaders should know how to effectively respond to this and adjust deadlines or workload accordingly.

10. Deliver regular mentally healthy workplace training for managers and employees

Building a positive and mentally healthy work environment doesn’t happen overnight. Training is essential to engage managers and employees on how to build a healthy work environment, manage stress at work, and avoid mismanagement claims from poor handling of mental health conditions at work.

Mental illness affects millions of employees in Australia. To help manage mental illness in your workplace, download HR Advance’s Mental Health Policy. The policy aims to encourage employees to report mental health issues to their employers.  

My Business Workplace has a range of policies, documents and checklists ready to download and implement, including WHS.


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