While some employers fail to see they have a role to play in terms of mental health in the workplace, one doctor has claimed that the costs of doing nothing far outweigh those of a proactive approach.
Speaking at the 2018 Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association (ARPA) national conference, Dr Tyler Amell of CoreHealth Technologies said that poor mental health has huge implications on the business bottom line – such as heightening absenteeism and physical health problems while slashing productivity.
Dr Amell suggested that mental health is now the leading cause of work disability worldwide and is continuing to grow – with estimations that direct costs combined with lost potential earnings could cost the global economy as much as $23 trillion by 2030.
“Instead of scrambling into action after a crisis, employers need to be more proactive in supporting employees with appropriate tools and resources before it hits,” he said.
“Prevention provides results. Preventative strategies include assessing who might be at risk of mental health illness, talking about it with your team to reduce stigma and making sure leaders have appropriate training to help colleagues in need before a crisis occurs.
“It’s about planting the seed for improved resilience and being better prepared for any future work disability risk.”
According to Dr Amell, there has been an explosion in the number of apps aimed at supporting mental health, providing a fast and cheap means of helping to build a healthy workplace for employees and also for employers themselves.
“Psychometric tools, stress heatmaps and wellness gamification modules have proven to help teams to switch off, receive advice discreetly and build their resilience,” he said.
“The tools that work best are the ones that fit in with your business’ culture, focus on individual risk and prepare people for changes. There are many digital tools that can challenge individuals to improve their lifestyle behaviour. They encourage small changes like taking the stairs or parking the car further away, improving sleep quality and diet – all adding up to an improved lifestyle over time.”
Dr Amell also urged business leaders to monitor stress-related absences among their teams, with clear reporting helping to identify areas of concern where improvements can be made.
Recent research from workplace mental health organisation SuperFriend suggested that SMEs are already leading corporate Australia in developing mentally healthy workplaces.
But while most discussion centres on employee mental health and wellbeing, accounting associations in particular are leading a push to support the mental health of business owners.
Accountants are often seen more as trusted business advisers than simply tax agents and, as such, are well-placed to identify and support the self-employed community, particularly during times of stress.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.