The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace
We spend most of our waking hours in the workplace, and common daily stressors such as overwhelming workloads, looming deadlines, and navigating professional relationships can take a hefty toll.
In fact, one in five Australian employees has reported taking time off in the past 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell. Yet despite the prevalence of mental illness in the workplace, many employees continue to suffer in silence due to the stigma surrounding mental health.
Our work environments play a significant role in protecting and promoting our mental health. This silent, unseen illness can impact not only the individual, but also the business as a whole, making it more important than ever for both employers and employees to break the stigma and support a mentally healthy workplace.
The Cost to Australian Businesses
Mental health conditions don’t just cause problems for individual employees – they also affect the wider workforce and the organisation.
When employees aren’t feeling mentally well, they can’t perform their roles to the best of their abilities. Poor mental health can have a significant impact on engagement, productivity and morale,which can cause a ripple effect throughout the business.
Mental illness isn’t just costing companies productivity – it’s also costing a considerable amount of money. The Australian economy is out of pocket approximately $12 billion per year in lost productivity and sickness absence costs.
When an organisation commits to endorsing a mentally healthy work environment, they’re making an investment in their employees and their business.
Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness in the Workplace
The truth is mental health can be a sensitive topic to discuss. But avoiding these tricky conversations only exacerbates the stigma and isolates those who may be struggling.
Maybe they’re concerned about their job security, worried they’ll be seen as unfit for their role. Or perhaps they fear workmates will start treating them differently. Whatever the reasons, some people simply don’t feel comfortable disclosing their issues at work – especially if the organisation hasn’t actively promoted awareness or created policies surrounding mental health.
Everyone plays an important role in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, from the new-starter to the CEO. A few ways to encourage a positive workplace where people feel safe to share their issues might include:
- Checking in with colleagues to see how they’re doing
- Sharing educational resources to help workers understand common mental health issues in the workplace
- Sharing contact information for available support services
- Supporting workers’ recovery and return to work if they do require time off
Support for Mental Health in the Workplace
Many employers provide access to free and confidential counselling and other mental health services. You can speak to your organisation’s HR department for more information.
If your employer doesn’t provide these services, Australia offers a wide range of high-quality support services. A few reputable organisations include:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Headspace – 1800 650 890
- Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277
- SANE Australia - 1800 187 263
- BlackDog Institute