Tips for employers to enhance worker mental health

National Media

Wednesday, 10 April, 2024

Tips for employers to enhance worker mental health

Mental health issues have serious implications in the workplace, particularly given the introduction of new regulations designed to protect mental wellbeing.

According to the Australian Institute of Health, 12% of the population has experienced psychological distress, while one in five Australians already suffers from a mental health condition. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that over 17% of Australians suffered an anxiety-related disorder between 2022 and 2023.

“We are now operating in a social context where the mental health landscape is far more complex. The endless pursuit of better returns along with many of the post-COVID workplace changes is impacting mental health in our community and employers need to adjust,” said Simon Brown-Greaves, Chief Mental Health Officer at Australia Post.

In order to address mental health, Brown-Greaves outlines three key steps that organisations should take.

1. Develop a culture and a strategy that support good mental health

Make sure the strategy is fit for purpose, and facilitates partnership at all levels of leadership.

“Company-wide, mental health needs to be embedded in routine practices across the business and should be the responsibility of company leadership and team members alike,” Brown-Greaves said.

Companies of any size can implement an effective strategy, almost for free — there are sufficient resources in the community which can be accessed to pull together a program that is specific and relevant to a work environment and scale.

“It’s about looking at things like effective job design, effective collaboration, leadership and workload management,” Brown-Greaves said.

2. Be clear on who is responsible for mental health

Organisations should differentiate between what responsibility they hold in terms of supporting worker mental health, and what is the responsibility of team members themselves.

“There is a subtle, but important difference between what we own, and what we support,” Brown-Greaves said.

The focus should be on identifying how to reduce the negative impact of specific actions or activities within the workplace that are the responsibility of the employer.

“For example, we need to keep our posties safe from dogs — not doing this would mean additional anxiety and risk for the employee.”

Brown-Greaves cautioned against wellbeing initiatives that inadvertently place an added burden on the employer.

“A lot of time and money is spent on activities that are not the responsibility of an organisation, such as subsidised gym memberships or yoga classes,” he said.

“These don’t give the organisation the best value as the activities don’t appeal to the broad population, and put the company in charge of organising the recreational activities of employees. We’re not in the pursuit of happiness — it’s about developing strategies that are sustainable and scalable.”

3. Empower teams with effective mental health leadership and support resources

Leadership development shouldn’t be solely focused on managing the mental health of staff, but rather on effective communication skills — to facilitate regular wellbeing checks so leaders can proactively identify the signals of possible mental health issues and know where to refer these issues.

“Supervisors need to be mindful of the mental health of the team but should know what the mechanisms are to support them in helping their team,” Brown-Greaves said.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are one means to provide mental health support to personnel when needed.

“The Australia Post EAP has eight streams of support — from financial advisory support, family violence, special support for Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islanders (more than 1000 of our employees identify as ATSI), and we also have a manager coaching/assistance program where managers can get support in working with their staff.”

Getting started on mental health

Brown-Greaves will be sharing his insights at the upcoming Workplace Health and Safety Show, taking place in Melbourne from 22–23 May 2024.

His Summit Stage seminar, entitled “Workplace Wellbeing: A Strategic Imperative for Businesses Success”, will be about designing and delivering a mental health strategy in the workplace.

“This is a recipe of the key considerations to take into account if you are serious about putting together a strategy,” he said.

Image credit: Biascioli

Related Articles

The benefits of tech-enabled workplace risk management

Innovative new technology enables organisations to identify and respond more quickly to hazards...

Improving employee wellbeing in three steps

Employee wellbeing is emerging as a top priority, with many workers now expecting their...

Shortening work week to improve construction culture

A new report has explored construction industry culture, highlighting the problems of excessive...

  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd