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The business case for a mentally healthy workplace

Research tells us mental health is either affecting your business right now or is likely to in the near future.

One in six working aged people are living with a mental illness. Beyond that, it’s believed there are more people experiencing mental health challenges ranging from high stress to undiagnosed depression.

If your organisation isn’t incorporating mental health considerations into your strategy, then you’re falling behind, both in workplace culture and the costs you’re adding to your business.

Let’s have a look at what being mentally healthy really means for your business.

You have a legal obligation to do so

Every business has a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This includes both physical and mental health; occupational health and safety involves psychological injury prevention.

As your employees have no obligation to disclose their personal experiences with you, it’s impossible to target workplace mental health efforts to just those affected by mental illness. Instead, a broad approach is needed to ensure your workplace supports and promotes every employees’ wellbeing.

A Safe Work Australia representative explains your goal is to not create or exacerbate any adverse mental health effects. “Businesses can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. Well-designed workplaces and work processes consider the mental health of the workers and use design principles to prevent harm to a worker’s mental health,” Safe Work’s representative said.

Your business will gain

Creating a mentally healthy workplace will provide measurable benefits to your business. These include:

  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Improving productivity to result in higher financial performance
  • Lowering workers’ compensation claims and insurance premium costs, and
  • Increasing motivation, as supportive workplaces inspire employee loyalty.

These results are measurable through incident report reviews, workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism and sick leave patterns, staff turnover and complaints. Other possible reviewing methods include employee feedback and work performance and team interaction improvements.

Safe Work Australia spokesperson: “Mental illness is one of the leading causes of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia.”

It’s in these costs you’ll likely notice a strong investment return when you implement mental health initiatives into your business. The latest research shows that investing in mental health gives employers a return of (5:1). However, there is a large spread of potential returns from 0.4:1 up to nearly 11:1. These are better returns than businesses can make in most investments.

It’s the right thing to do

Last, but definitely not least, creating a mentally healthy workplace is simply the right thing to do. Rather than pretending that issues won’t crop up between employees and that everything will be smooth sailing, understand your employees aren’t infallible. They will experience struggles during their time working with you. In addition, work can be helpful to those going through challenges if you have a positive working environment.

“Good work can support and encourage participation for people with non-work-related mental health conditions and can help to improve their mental health,” explains the Safe Work Australia spokesperson.

Where to start?

Many businesses find mental health challenging to deal with. There are two strong ways you can help break down the stigma surrounding mental health at work:

“The assessment should specifically look for hazards and risks that can impact on mental health. For example, factors such as workload and levels of job control and autonomy should be examined,” says the Safe Work Australia spokesperson.

  • Another good place to start is with a reputable workplace program that will help you implement positive, effective, evidence-based change. Look at all the stressors in the workplace and start building an organisation that’s mitigating those stressors, and incorporating it into your risk management strategy.

Improving mental health and wellbeing in your workplace doesn’t need to be complicated.

Online training and courses

Training is one of the most impactful initiatives a workplace can do to create a thriving environment, by building mental health and wellbeing capability and confidence.

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Resources and toolkits

We do our own research and feed national insights into a range of best-practice workplace wellbeing resources and guides for organisations and individuals.

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Strategic support

Our experts are here to help you to navigate your organisation’s unique workplace wellbeing journey from end to end, including assessment, strategy and policy development.

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