A supportive work environment, where mental health and wellbeing is as important as physical health and safety, can be the most effective stress reliever.
In the workplace, work-related stress describes the physical, mental and emotional reactions of workers who perceive that their work demands exceed their abilities and/or their resources to get the job done. It can have a major impact, with workplace injury claims for stress-related mental disorders estimated to cost Australian business more than $200 million annually.
It’s certainly worth considering investment in mental health initiatives in the workplace – for every $1 spent, there is an average return on investment of $2.30.
In the vast majority of instances people adapt well over time to stressors, are able to bounce back from difficulties and continue to perform as per normal. This is called having resilience.
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 get more sleep, try turning off the TV and other devices at least 30 minutes before bed, and write that down as an area for action.
Feel good about yourself for making small changes – these can lead to big improvements.
Where to go for support:
- talk it through with the beyondblue support service: call 1300 22 4636 (24/7 service). Information and resources about anxiety and depression are also available.
- Ehub Health: self-help anxiety and depression resources, including e-couch, moodgym and Bluepages
- Heads up: a simple self-check for small business owners to look after their own mental health.
If things are getting too much, talk to someone, see your GP or call:
- Lifeline: call 13 11 14 for 24/7 confidential crisis support
- Suicide Call Back Service: call 1300 659 467 for counselling if you are at risk of suicide
- SA Health Mental Health Triage Service: call 13 14 65 (24/7 service) for mental health support if you have never previously accessed a mental health service.
If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000.
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.
While stress itself is not a disease, where it becomes excessive and long-lasting it can lead to ill health, and so this duty extends to protecting workers from the risk of harm from stressors at work.
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. Mental 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 stress and resilience, particularly through education and awareness. Try to encourage a workplace culture where work-related stresses and struggles can be discussed in an open, supportive and constructive manner.
We have put together a series of 12 fact sheets to help businesses identify and manage stress in their workplace. The fact sheets provide detailed safety solutions for the 8 common risk factors such as work demands, poor support from supervisors and low levels of recognition.The topics of the fact sheets are:
- 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-related hazards in your workplace and find areas for improvement. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you encourage a workplace 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?
- Have you communicated and managed any business changes effectively?
- Do you recognise and reward workers efforts?
- 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.
- SafeWork SA: work-related stress fact sheets
- Heads up: supporting small businesses to create mentally healthy workplaces
- SafeWork Australia: fact sheet on preventing psychological injury under work health and safety laws
- Head to Health: programs that address various health and mental wellbeing areas
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 other 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.