At the International Initiatives in Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) knowledge exchange hosted by SuperFriend in February 2017, there were many valuable insights provided by the 22 participants designed to help educate employers wanting to build inspired, healthy and thriving teams. Focusing on an integrated approach to workplace mental health, the session discussed a range of elements within three streams:
- Promoting the positive aspects of work
- Preventing harm in the workplace
- Managing illness, regardless of cause
While many see workplace mental health as an issue only for those who may be experiencing a mental illness or mental health issues, creating mentally healthy workplaces is about building an environment that firstly, does no harm, but secondly provides good supportive work.
Rather than focusing exclusively on the 1 in 5 workers (Australian average) who may be experiencing a mental health issue, focusing attentions on improving the communication and environment for all 5 workers will help minimise the risk of workplace health issues and increase the chance of improvements to those experiencing challenges. Building a workplace that recognises and supports workers through mental illness can reduce absenteeism and presenteeism and support increased productivity.
It is also important to be able to recognise how your employees look and behave when they are having a good day. By not doing so, your ability to see the signs when they are experiencing a bad day will be limited for those who are not pro-active about sharing the issues they are having.
By opening up the avenues for an open, supportive and unified dialogue you can ensure that you ask the right questions at the right times.
What the experts say
Mental Health expert Mary Ann Baynton from the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace outlined the 5 key factors that help create a mentally healthy workplace at the IIMHL event.
- Ensuring civility and respect are part of normal, everyday life
- Work demands are both reasonable and clear
- Staff feel it is safe to speak up about their issues
- Those issues are then identified and resolved
- Accommodating each person, and the concern or issue, will help aid workplace productivity
With these core ideologies in mind, you and your workplace can support your workers and provide a platform that benefits their mental wellbeing and professional successes.
This SuperFriend exchange identified themes for national and international action. You can view the themes here.