Employers warned: don't ignore mental health issues
By Hannah Dixon on
8 September 2016
A workplace that is mentally healthy is good for business, according to a recent talk at the National Safety Convention.
Sally Kirkright, CEO of AccessEAP, says employers shouldn’t ignore the challenges of mental health.
“Mental illness is more prevalent than many people realise. About 45 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, while one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year,” she said.
“Ignoring the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace does organisations more harm than good.”
It is estimated mental health cost Australian employers about $10.9 billion a year. Absenteeism due to mental health results in a staggering 12 million days of reduced productivity amounting to 6 million working days being lost every year.
Kirkright believes recognising and promoting mental health is essential to creating a safe work environment – one that will not create or exacerbate mental health problems and where workers with mental illness are properly supported.
Eliminate the fear of disclosure
“Employers should have procedures in place to manage mental health in the workplace and work towards eliminating the fear of disclosure.
“They should provide training to leaders and supervisors so that they can have the sometimes difficult conversations with their team members about personal wellbeing and potential mental health concerns,” she said.
The end result, Kirkright says, is wide-ranging including higher staff retention rates to more committed workers.
“Research has shown that one of the big reasons employees leave a workplace is because of a poor mental health environment. A mentally healthy workplace is an important factor in a person’s decision to accept a new job,” she said.
To create a mentally healthy workplace, Kirkright suggests employers consider:
This may include resilience training, time and stress management and how to get better organised. Teaching coping skills as a protective measure may avoid issues down the track.
- Make the workplace as stress-free as possible
Mental health awareness sessions, communicating and providing access to EAP services and making mental health a priority all help to improve workplace culture. Choose good people managers and train them for their role. Promptly address inappropriate behaviours such as bullying and harassment.
Work with employees to determine the type of flexibility they value. Provide clear work expectations, recognise work/life balance, understand diversity and cultural impacts to act as protective factors in the workplace.
Sally Kirkright is the CEO of AccessEAP and spoke at Safety in Action yesterday.