How you can improve workplace mental health

By Andrew Hobbs on October 20th, 2017
  1. Employee health & wellbeing
  2. Mental Health

COMPANIES can improve the way they handle mental health in the workplace by setting key performance indicators for mental health and safety and ensuring their workers get access to peer support programs, according to SafeWork NSW.

The above points were from a series of 10 attributes that SafeWork NSW found were most indicative of effective mental health and wellbeing management in what it said was the most comprehensive research it had ever conducted – the Mentally Healthy Workplaces in NSW Benchmarking Tool.

The research found that only 8.8 per cent of the more than 2,000 companies surveyed had an integrated and sustained approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Close to one-in-five employers had only a basic level of awareness of their role in building a mentally healthy workplace or exhibiting an intention to act, while almost a third of employers had only limited, ad hoc or outsourced psychosocial support services.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the statistics were surprising.

“These findings show nearly half of the businesses have no measures in place that specifically address mental health in the workplace,” he said.

“That’s quite a staggering statistic when you consider that one-third of our adult life is spent at work and that work can therefore have a significant impact on our mental health,” he said.

The Mentally Healthy Workplaces in NSW Benchmarking Tool report set out 10 attributes that companies with effective mental health and wellbeing management most often had in common and,  if implemented, would help improve a company’s approach to mental health.

They were:

  • Setting KPIs for mental health and safety including the use of support services (they have goals);
  • Ensuring workers get access to peer support programs (so they can look after each other);
  • Providing the workplace with a vision for worker health and safety (WHS);
  • Setting up a WHS strategy and monitoring it;
  • Giving workers training programs on stigma reduction and mental health; and
  • Giving workers access to self-service mental health tools;

It also suggested training managers so they:

  • Are prepared to and able to adjust the design of work to minimise injury;
  • Are aware of the best language and approaches when dealing with workplace health;
  • Make it normal for workers to use support services;
  • Actually put the training into practice;

An earlier Return on Investment (ROI) analysis of workplace mental health initiatives in NSW found that companies that invested in workplace health promotions could get more than $4 for every $1 invested from reduced absenteeism and better productivity, Mr Kean said.

Therefore, he believed businesses that introduced mental health programs in their workplaces could improve their bottom line.

Handling mental health in the workplace

Recognition of mental health risks as a workplace safety issue is growing, and may soon be on a par with the risks to physical safety that most employers take so seriously.

With that in mind, do you know how to reduce mental health risks at your workplace? What do these risks look like – and what are your legal obligations?

Mental Health at Work is a 44-page eBook that spells out some of the mental health risks that might be present at your workplace and what you can do to address them.

Separating fact from fiction, the eBook gives you a step-by-step guide to assessing mental health risks in your workplace and a checklist on how to minimise mental health risks.

Written by experts in the field, the Mental Health at Work eBook can provide you with extra assistance in dealing with these issues. Get your copy today.

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