Creating a mentally healthy workplace – Sydney Morning Herald

Posted: October 19, 2019 at 1:41 pm

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Its important to understand the data you have available to give you insights into the priorities, and then it is important to ask people how they think and feel about the priorities, Ekkelenkamp says. This includes cultural surveys, engagement and sick leave data.

Once a business understands how it can measure these elements, there are lots of opportunities for workplaces to take a proactive approach to managing mental health.

These include interventions aimed to protect everyone in the business, specific interventions targeted to higher risk work groups, and interventions that are inclusive and are aimed to reduce the impact of mental ill health where it does occur.

icare relationship manager Adam OLeary travels around the state supporting employers and helping them implement good mental health practices. He says that workplace harassment and bullying is the most common cause of mental health claims in NSW.

OLeary says its not easy to manage these claims. They can be quite personal in nature and can create a challenging working environment, especially when a direct accusation has been made against a colleague or manager.

icare relationship manager Adam O'Leary says that workplace harassment and bullying is the most common cause of mental health claims in NSW. Credit:icare

Mental health research centre The Black Dog Institutes data shows depression and anxiety are the most common psychological injuries in the workforce. In certain high-risk occupations, you may also see elevated levels of PTSD and substance abuse, says Dr Aimee Gayed from Black Dog Institutes Workplace Mental Health Research Program.

She says organisations have a responsibility regardless of the cause of a workers mental illness to support their staff through a period of mental ill health and provide an environment free of stigma.

It is important upper management model accepting and supportive behaviours towards staff who are experiencing mental ill health, and provide evidence-based training for their managers if they are uncertain how to support staff, she says.

Strategies managers can implement include initiating conversations about mental illness as soon as it becomes known an employee is unwell. Its also important to maintain contact with employees regularly during periods of ill health because there are many benefits to taking a proactive approach to mental health.

When workplaces support the mental health needs of staff and better manage mental health risk factors present in the workplace, we see an increase in health and productivity and a reduction in absence. Workers are also more able to stay at work or return to work sooner from a period of leave for mental health reasons than those who are not supported, she adds.

Credit Union Australia (CUA) is a great example of a business that has taken a planned and proactive approach to good mental health in the workplace. They looked at their data and consulted with their people and have specific solutions for their needs, says Ekkelenkamp.

PwC research has found financial services has a high incidence of mental health issues, which is one reason why CUA takes a proactive approach to supporting good mental health.

CUAs senior safety health and wellbeing business partner Vanessa De Amicis explains the frontline role its team members play during stressful times in their customers lives is one reason why its important to support employees mental health.

The financial services sector has a high incidence of mental health issues, says PwC research. Credit:Getty

When youre buying a house, going through a divorce or after a death, one of the first steps is getting your finances in order. We also work in a highly regulated environment and understanding how banking and insurance works is complex. So our workplace is inherently stressful. As a credit union, mutual good is part of our purpose and values. So we have a genuine interest in caring for our peoples mental health, she adds.

CUAs program recognises people's mental health is impacted by many aspects such as relationships, physical health and also personal development. So it has a multi-pronged approach to supporting staff mental health and wellbeing.

It provides team members with access to the Headspace mindfulness mobile app and conducts health assessments to identify people who are at risk of declining mental health (as well as physical health). It also gives staff access to a mental health portal full of great information, tools and resources. Additionally, it trains leaders to have evidence-based, structured conversations with team members to support good mental health practices across the business.

CUA measures how effective its actions are in relation to supporting good mental health. Thanks to its focus on this issue, 79 per cent of its people believe it is proactive in supporting their wellbeing.

Ultimately, says Ekkelenkamp, good mental health in the workplace all comes down to culture. It's important to make it okay to talk about mental health and to ensure leaders are appropriately equipped to have good conversations with their teams, especially when people work remotely and are less likely to have traditional relationships with leaders. Its also essential not just to support people when they're unwell but to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place, she adds.

There are dividends for businesses that get this right. A more engaged workforce and a workforce that feels supported, regardless of what's happening in their life, are just a few.

This leads to operational benefits such as longer tenure and higher productivity, as well as lower workers' compensation costs and reduced sick leave. Moreover, focusing on protecting and promoting mental health not only makes good business sense, it makes good sense from a community perspective as well.

Do you want to make workplace safety a priority for your business? icare can partner with you to offer valuable strategies to reduce the risk of physical and psychological injuries in the workplace.

For more info visit

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Creating a mentally healthy workplace - Sydney Morning Herald

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October 19th, 2019 at 1:41 pm