While the focus was once on safety in the workplace, some of the attention is now turning to how organisations can facilitate a mentally healthy workplace - and for good reason. A person who develops a mental illness will often need more time to recover than someone who suffers a physical injury at work.
In a mental health report, the World Health Organisation stated that employment promotes mental wellbeing because it provides workers with time structure, social connections, purpose, social identity, and regular activity. However, the workplace is also one of the key environments that affect our wellbeing and health.
Research by Beyond Blue revealed that 91% of workers believe mental health in the workplace is important, with 88% of workers believing that physical safety is important. Only 52% of workers believe their workplace is mentally healthy, which shows that there is still some way to go.
Signs of a Mentally Healthy Workplace
There are a number of factors that must be taken into account when deciding if a workplace is a mentally healthy place for its employees.
#1 Low Absenteeism Rate
The absenteeism rate is an indication of the health of a workplace. When an employee is suffering from poor mental health, they’re likely to take more days off work than if they were feeling mentally healthy. If staff are happy and mentally healthy, they aren’t contributing to the $4.7 billion it costs Australian organisations annually in lost productivity.
#2 Low Presenteeism Rate
Some employees with mental health concerns may not take time off work, though they aren’t likely to be as productive compared to when they’re well. Presenteeism is costing organisations an aggregate of $6.1 billion annually. A mentally healthy workplace will have a low level of presenteeism and high engagement and productivity rates.
#3 Support for Employees That Are Caring for Others
It may not be an employee that is suffering from poor mental health, but they may be supporting a partner, child, parent or close friend who is. When an organisation’s culture allows staff to take time off to provide care, staff are likely to be productive while working and less likely to resign. A mentally healthy organisation shows its employees that it cares about their personal lives. Employees are reminded to use Employee Assistance Program counselling if they or a family member needs support.
Organisations that make employees feel valued and supported are likely to have lower turnover rates. Forbes reports that 96% of employees believe that showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention.
#4 Wellbeing Programs Are on Offer
Good quality workplace wellbeing programs are evidence-based and tailored to the needs of an organisation and its employees. The mental health modules as part of Altius’ Wellbeing Program includes tips and strategies for changing habits to optimise health, sleep management and fatigue, stress and anxiety, resilience, emotional intelligence, healthy body and mind, and digital health.
Work-based health and wellbeing programs may offer a range of activities that employees can do during work or personal time, including:
Webinars on stress management
Wellness tips on the intranet
Yoga at lunchtime
Access to meditation or wellbeing apps such as AltiusLife
Parenting and relationship courses
Walk to work or walking group at lunchtime
Neck massages at your desk
AltiusLife allows employees to gain access to evidence-based articles, self-reporting health surveys, tips, ideas, health trackers and rewards. The online platform and mobile app focuses on physical, mental and social wellbeing.
#5 Positive Culture
The culture of an organisation is a good indicator of the mental health of its workers. Poor culture occurs when there is low staff morale and disengaged workers who would prefer to work elsewhere. Unrealistic expectations of the management team, bullying and harassment amongst workers all take a toll on the positive culture of an organisation.
#6 Staff Training is Available
A mentally healthy workplace ensures its staff are properly trained. If supervisors and managers receive training, they know what to look out for in employees that are stressed and struggling with heavy workloads. Properly trained supervising staff are more likely to take a proactive approach with checking on the wellbeing of staff.
#7 Supportive Management
Management approval is required in order for mental health initiatives to be implemented in an organisation. Some organisations will question whether money spent on employee mental health initiatives can be justified, but you only need to look at the cost of poor mental health to realise the importance. The Productivity Commission’s report on mental health put the direct economic costs at between $43-$70 billion, and employers are footing most of the cost.
Research has revealed that for every dollar an organisation spends on mental health initiatives, it will receive $2.30 worth of benefits in return. Investing in wellbeing programs is reported to have an even higher return of $3 to $5 according to the Workplace Health Association.
The Importance of a Mentally Health Workplace
According to a PwC report, 45% of Australians aged 16 to 85 experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. Organisations must drive and maintain actions that will create a mentally healthy workplace and benefit the community, economy and their own balance sheet.
With such a tight labour market and stressed employees, organisations need to do everything they can to retain existing staff and attract new employees. Star ratings count when applicants are considering applying for a new role. If employee reviews talk of a toxic culture and uncaring management, attracting the best applicants will be difficult.
If you need to make an appointment to speak with a psychologist, speak to your employer about an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or speak to your GP. Alternatively, you can contact PeopleSense by Altius Group on 1800 258 487 or get in contact online.