Sadly, at any given time, approximately 1 in 5 Australian workers is likely to be experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. This is estimated to cost Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year in absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.
Business performance can be impacted when mental health conditions are experienced by business managers or their workers, including lost productivity through days off work or not working at full capacity. Relationships with clients, other workers or family members may also be damaged.
Prevention and effective management of mental health conditions in the workplace can reduce these social and financial impacts, and certainly makes good business sense.
A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes the psychological health of everyone at work and actively works towards avoiding or minimising psychosocial hazards such as:
- anxiety and depression
- bullying and inappropriate behaviours
- work-related violence.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.’
Taking care of yourself can help you to face life’s inevitable stressors and keep you feeling positive and well while you are at work or running your own business. Be proactive about looking after your own mental health, in the same way you take action to protect your physical health and safety in the workplace.
Look out for others too. Staying connected and having meaningful conversations is something we can all do. You don't need to be an expert, just a good friend or workmate and a great listener. If you notice someone who might be struggling, start a conversation and offer your support.
Read our Top 10 Tips to maintaining and improving your own health and wellbeing. Notice what you are already doing well, and be honest with yourself. For example, if you think you need to talk to your GP or a counsellor because things are getting too much and you aren’t coping, write it down as an area for action.
Feel good about yourself for making small changes – these can lead to big improvements.
Research suggests that happy people work and live better. Life can be stressful and sometimes it can be difficult to stay happy in all aspects of life, and to achieve a good work-life balance.
Your state of wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It’s a complex combination of interrelated physical, mental, emotional and social health factors, and is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction.
Sometimes it’s amazing how just one thing can affect everything else around us in both our personal and work lives. To help improve your sense of wellbeing:
- develop and maintain strong relationships with family and friends
- make regular time for social contact
- find work that is enjoyable and rewarding
- eat wholesome, nutritious foods
- participate in regular physical activity
- get involved in activities that interest you
- join local organisations or clubs that appeal to you
- set yourself achievable goals and work towards them
- be optimistic and enjoy each day.
Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the psychological health of workers, in the same way that their physical health must be taken care of.
Ensure that you first address inherent risks by looking at your systems of work design and management, before complementing with individual health and wellbeing programs. Psychological health hazards can be identified through one-on-one discussions with workers, observations and reviewing past incidents.
Workplaces can be a good setting for promoting healthy attitudes about mental health and wellbeing, particularly through education and awareness.
Encourage a workplace culture where work-related stresses and struggles can be discussed in an open, supportive and constructive manner. Look to how you can support people with mental health conditions appropriately, and help reduce stigma and discrimination.
We have put together a series of fact sheets to help business identify and manage stress in their workplace. The 12 fact sheets cover:
- Overview of work-related stress
- A risk management approach to work-related stress
- Implementing a work-related stress risk management process
- Risk factors for work-related stress
- Work demands
- Levels of control
- Support from supervisors and/or co-workers
- Role clarity and role conflict
- Managing relationships
- Recognition and reward
- Managing change
- Organisational justice
The most effective work health and wellbeing programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so your efforts are best done as part of an integrated approach.
Our Simple Steps to Safety guide, with useful templates and checklists, will help you to include work health and safety as part of your business planning. Following these steps can help you create a positive work health, safety and wellbeing culture that contributes to the success of your business.
Use our health and safety checklist to help identify mental health and wellbeing-related hazards in your workplace and find areas for improvement. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your workplace encourage a culture where work-related stresses and struggles can be discussed in an open, supportive and constructive manner?
- Do workers indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of the job?
- Do you educate staff in relation to acceptable behaviours and how to report unacceptable behaviours?
- Do you promote a fair and positive work environment?
- Is coaching available for those suffering from work stress, such as a PCBU-funded employee assistance program where workers can access confidential counselling?
View our Top 10 Tips video, which can be used as a discussion starter or inspiration for toolbox talks and group exercises around sharing the responsibility for maintaining and improving health and wellbeing.
Seek information, advice and support from our free workplace advisory service if you need it.
Focus days or events can be a great motivator to do something positive about improving health and wellbeing, either personally or as a workplace group. Try the following:
- R U OK? Day (September): help start conversations about mental health
- Mental Health Week and World Mental Health Day (October): raising awareness of mental health issues.
There are many resources and support services available to help you build your personal mental health wellness, or to develop mental health and wellbeing programs in your workplace.
Information is also provided here about who can help in an emergency.