5 Tips in 5 Minutes: Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace
It’s estimated that around two million Australians each year suffer from anxiety, and one million have depression, according to the Diversity Council of Australia(1). The Council says when mental health issues are left untreated, it costs employers in Australia around $10 billion in reduced productivity, absenteeism and compensation claims.
However, if companies invest in ways of improving the mental health and safety of employees, they can reap a return of $2.30 for each dollar spent, which can only be good for a company’s finances. The following five quick tips may help employers to build a mentally healthy workplace.
Mental Health is as Important as Physical Health
Despite the distinction often made between physical and mental health, or the mind and the body, the two are inextricably linked. Mental health problems can affect the body, and poor physical health can affect the mind.
Doctors are increasingly called upon now to take into consideration a person’s mental health when treating a physical condition and the same for mental conditions affecting the physical.
Mental illness can exacerbate chronic stress, which can increase the risk of heart disease, weaken the immune system and affect cognitive impairment and weight gain. Stress can also lead to premature ageing and dental problems.
Remove the Mental Illness Stigma
The stigma associated with mental health conditions has gone on for too long, so groups and organisations are working hard to eliminate it from the workplace and society in general.
Workplaces that are actively encouraging conversations about employees’ struggles with stress and life’s struggles, and who offer support, are finding it goes a long way towards removing the stigma. Such interventions then improve productivity and employees will likely have fewer days off work. Employing a mental health worker who can sensitively discuss an employee’s problems with them is one appropriate solution.
Flexible Job Designs and Workplaces
More flexible working schedules ought to be considered by your business as a way to help employees maintain a healthy work/life balance. It’s now much easier to strike this balance, what with the developments in technology, and employers now more aware of how important flexibility is for the health of workers.
When staff are permitted to change their work hours to pick up children from school or childcare, for instance, or change their start and finish times, job share, or work from home, it can alleviate a lot of stress. Less stress can then, in turn, have a positive impact on a worker’s mental health and increase the business’s productivity.
Provide Resources and Support
Some helpful resources such as apps like those found on Headspace (2), e.g., are available to help improve mental health. Companies can help their workers train their minds by offering these tools and apps that teach mindfulness and meditation methods, and by allowing them the flexibility of taking time out when they need to practice their calming techniques.
Build Awareness and Understanding
Many employers are beginning to understand that a person with a mental illness is often the best person for the job. It’s well known in mental health circles that work is good for mental and physical health, as well as finances. And if employers support a member of staff who has a mental health condition to either return to work if they’ve had time off to recover, or to stay in their role rather than give it up, it has many benefits.
The business benefits because it avoids the cost of hiring and training a new person, and it also retains the valuable skills and experience of the employee. And the employee feels more secure knowing they are valued.
At the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMH), our raison d’être is to advance the understanding of mental health for everyone’s benefit. As a non-government, not-for-profit association, we believe in the power of knowledge sharing, spreading the word on developments in mental health research and treatment, and supporting industry professionals.
Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in-depth understanding of many different industries including home improvement, financial support and health care.
He has used his knowledge and experience to work for clients as diverse as BYO Group, Adroit Insurance and Simple Biz to help them reach their business goals.