Mental Health and the Workplace


Mental Health and the Workplace

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Beyond Blue estimates that three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Chances are that someone (or several people) you work with are affected.  In the past, mental health in the workplace was something that didn’t get much thought or discussion.  Thankfully those days are gone – and there is growing awareness of the importance and benefits of promoting good mental health in the workplace and there are some great resources available to support mental health initiatives.

Small businesses have some advantages when it comes to supporting mental health in the workplace. Small business owners often know their staff well, so they are able to notice changes or people needing help. It can also be relatively easy to act quickly, implement strategies and see the impact of those decisions.

If you would like to start a conversation around mental health in your workplace but don’t know where to begin, contact us at anytime on 1300 717 721 and read on for some tips on how to do so:

Stay in touch

Developing relationships with your team and encouraging them to get to know one another is one of the best things you can do to support their mental health. Research has shown that people’s connectedness to others is a significant risk factor for anxiety and depression. Check in with your staff regularly to see where they are at and how they are feeling. What is going well? What are they finding challenging? How is their workload? Do they need assistance?

This also applies to staff who work remotely or who are on the road, who can easily find themselves feeling isolated or disengaged. Call them regularly to chat and encourage them to join team meetings via Skype or Facetime.

Spend time together as a team. Get in the habit of taking a regular lunch time walk together or sharing a lunch break if that’s possible. Try and organise a regular get together that includes team members who work offsite.

Learn about mental health

It can be tricky to know how to start a conversation about mental health. There is a vast array of free resources available to employers to educate them and their staff (See the links at the end of this blog).  Understanding mental health and the causes of work related stress will give you the confidence to start conversations and support those with conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Encourage an open and ongoing conversation about mental health in the workplace by making resources such as brochures or online links available to staff, hosting training or Toolbox chats. You may also like to provide staff with access to an EAP service or counselling service. There are many events throughout the year which you can promote, such as Worksafe month, RU Ok day and Go Home on Time Day.

Working with staff who have a mental health condition to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace will not only help those staff but sends a positive message to others who may be finding life challenging.

Promote a respectful workplace and good work/life balance

With the increased use of technology and the 24/7 cycle of engagement it feels at times like there is less opportunity for human interaction. In the work I do I often hear complaints about the loss of day to day civilities that lead to a sense of disrespect and unpleasant work environment. Some of the common ones include staff not greeting one another, not acknowledging each other’s work, sending each other abrupt emails or texts, and using phones during meetings. Those minor resentments and infractions if left unchecked often lead to greater issues such as bullying and harassment.

How do staff engage with one another in your workplace? Is the mood upbeat and positive or are people rude and offhand? Think about what kind of tone you want to set in your workplace and how you can get there.

It’s also important to encourage life outside of work and to ensure your team maintain a healthy work/life balance. This starts with the behaviour you model – are you taking regular holidays? Do you leave work at a reasonable hour each day? Do you support flexible working arrangements that help staff family life or carers? Talk to your team and ask for their views on how you can all enjoy work and life outside of work.

Whilst these ideas might seem simple, even the smallest gesture can be helpful to someone who is struggling. What will you do today?

Further resources

Thursday September 13, 2018 is RU OK? Day-  raising awareness about how we can support those struggling with life every day by checking in with them and starting a conversation.  A good day to ask your colleagues R U OK?



Sarah Tidey

Sarah Tidey is a former lawyer who specialises in HR and workplace dispute resolution.

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