Promoting a Mentally Healthy Workplace

4 April 2023

Due to the lasting effects of the pandemic, mental illness is more prevalent than ever. In any year in Australia around 1 in 5 people aged 16-85 will experience a mental health disorder and almost half of all Australian adults will face mental ill-health at some point in their lives.

Recognising and managing risks in the workplace that may lead to psychological injury is an essential part of creating a safe, healthy and productive workplace. In addition, employers have a legal obligation around mental health in the workplace. As of 1 October 2022, new requirements were put in place for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. The three key amendments made were as follows:

  • Adding a definition of psychosocial hazards to the regulations.
  • Clarifying that a PCBU must manage psychosocial hazards.
  • Requiring a PCBU to implement control measure to eliminate psychosocial risks so far as reasonably practicable; and if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate psychosocial risks, to minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

In addition to ensuring compliance with key WHS legislation, the benefits of promoting a psychosocially safe and mentally healthy workplace include increased engagement, increased attraction and retention, saving costs and increased productivity.

Employers can reduce absenteeism by improving mental health in their workplace.

Research shows that employees who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy are almost four times more likely to have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell. In workplaces classified as mentally unhealthy, employees are less likely to seek managerial assistance for a mental health condition, they are less likely to support others, and they are more likely to avoid disclosing an experience of depression or anxiety in the workplace.

This research shows that Australian businesses need to give employees’ mental health the same priority as they give their physical health and safety. This commitment to mental health in the workplace can be demonstrated by organisational leaders in many practical ways.

One-way leaders can do this is by identifying potential indicators of poor mental health specific to the workplace, such as stress and inflexible working hours, and tailor actions to address these risks.

Additionally, businesses should implement workplace policies, practices and programs that encourage employees to seek help for mental health conditions. For example, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be utilised within your organisation to provide ongoing support to your employees.

An EAP is a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental, and general psychological wellbeing of all employees and often also includes services for immediate family members. The aim of an EAP is to provide preventive and proactive interventions for the early detection, identification and/or resolution of both work and personal problems that may adversely affect performance and wellbeing.

Resources designed to protect employee mental health must be promoted throughout the workplace to ensure that employees are aware of them.

Providing mental health training for staff can be an effective way of equipping employees with the skills and knowledge they require to manage their own mental health and support others in their workplace. HumanKapital can provide eLearning courses for your staff regarding mental health in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses are also useful for teaching staff simple, practical first aid skills for helping a family member, friend, co-worker or other person who is experiencing mental health problems.

By demonstrating commitment to good mental health in the working environment, organisational leaders will contribute to the reduction of stigma around mental health ultimately resulting in a mentally healthier workplace.

For more information about how you can manage psychosocial risks and promote a mentally healthy workplace, please contact Gabrielle via the link below.