As we know, there is no single solution to resolve mental health issues during challenging and changing times.
But there are simple steps we can take to support and improve wellbeing for ourselves, and our team members, as we strive to build a mentally healthy workplace.
Supporting your team’s mental health has benefits for both employees and businesses.
According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness or issue each year - and work is a vital part of their recovery.
The positive power of work
We all have a role to play in creating a positive workplace, where all people feel valued and visible.
A supportive work environment is good for improving mental health, the Health Benefits of Good Work initiative has found.
Plus, when it comes to someone with a diagnosed mental health condition, having a good job or returning to employment after being out of work, can aid recovery and shorten the duration of treatment.
A good job can give us purpose and help us lead happier, healthy lives.
Which means lower rates of staff attrition and absenteeism, creating a loyal and engaged workforce.
Practical approaches for leaders
It’s beneficial to speak openly about mental health in the workplace and encourage others to do the same.
Demonstrate your support for your employees or colleagues when they experience mental health problems, just as with physical health issues:
- Ensure the employee knows what they disclose to you will remain private and confidential and ask what they would like you to tell their colleagues.
- If the information needs to be shared with a third party, such as HR or another manager, explain this to your employee and discuss exactly what information will be passed on.
- Discuss support options with the employee. Such as accessing services such as an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), developing a plan to help them stay at or return to work or booking in regular meetings so you can check in with them more often.
- Openly discuss if there is anything work-related contributing to their mental health. If so, discuss with them how you could address those concerns.
Employer support is a critical factor in an employee’s recovery. 93% of employees with an injury or health condition who strongly agreed their employer supported them, were back at work.
Tips for approaching mental health at work
SANE Australia recommends the following quick tips:
- Understand – Proactively make time to understand and get the correct information on their illness or issue. It’s also worth understanding everyone’s legal rights and responsibilities.
- Support – Demonstrate your support for your employees or colleagues when they experience mental health problems, just as with physical health issues.
- Take action – A further step you can take is to make any reasonable adjustments to a person’s role or work environment.
3 ways to boost wellbeing
1. Flexible working hours and location
Just a small amount of flexibility can go a long way. Having the option to start a little earlier or later and being able to work remotely on an agreed basis, can help immensely. Having some flexibility to self-pace helps someone manage their mood and incorporate things such as therapy appointments, exercise into their regular routines.
It also provides an element of choice and control to the employee, which is important in facilitating a mentally healthy workplace. Low job control is a work-related psychosocial risk factor associated with common mental health disorders.
2. Managing workload and stress
You can support someone to complete the key tasks in their role, even in a steady or faster-paced environment, with some small role adjustments. These can be temporary or ongoing.
Customer-facing roles can be full-on for people experiencing anxiety, especially in hospitality.
Working in a food preparation role instead of the cash register can be a way to reduce or manage levels of social contact.
3. Training and support
Some extra training to refresh knowledge or build new skills is another great investment to make in your employees. It boosts their confidence, boosts their sense of purpose along with their productivity. Undertaking extra training to refresh knowledge in a particular software can be helpful.
Sources and resources
- Top 5 tips for creating a healthy and productive workplace
- Resources for employees – Heads Up
- Resources for employers – Heads Up
- Resources for managers – Heads Up
- Facts and figures about mental health – Black Dog Institute
- Help others stay at work – Heads Up
- The national Return to Work Survey: The role of the employer and workplace 2013 – Safe Work Australia
- SANE Australia
- The impact of psychosocial factors on mental health and their implications in life insurance – Financial Services Council