Workplace mental health has become a greater focus for organisations around the world, particularly in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
The employee mental health imperative has been brought to the fore following the enforced lockdowns and subsequent work from home shift that the majority of the workforce underwent – and are still operating in. Many of us have been feeling isolated from our families, friends, offices and teams, which makes workplace mental health an even more complex issue for employers to tackle.
Despite businesses' best efforts, workplace mental health is an ongoing challenge. Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends Survey found that, although employers are doing more to support their staff, there is a continuing disconnect between employers and workers when it comes to supporting employee wellbeing.
Following R U OK? Day on September 9, World Mental Health day this October 10 and Mental Health Month during October, we share the benefits and key considerations on what companies can be doing better to prioritise employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
The benefits of workplace mental health initiatives
Before we look at how to promote mental health in the workplace, let’s first look at why it matters:
- Healthy workers are more productive: A report by the Australian Government found that healthy workers rate their work performance much higher than unhealthy workers. For every $1 spent to improve mental health at work, a company can achieve returns of up to $4 through improved productivity and savings from reduced workers compensation claims.
- Wellbeing programs reduce absenteeism: The cost of sick days to Australian workplaces is estimated to be $4.7 billion annually. Harvard researchers examined the cost-saving benefits of wellbeing programs in relation to absenteeism and found that for every dollar spent on wellbeing programs, absenteeism costs fell by $2.73.
- Wellbeing initiatives improve talent acquisition and retention: A 2021 Gallup survey found that employees of all generations rank "the organisation cares about employees' wellbeing" in their top three criteria when considering an employer.
- Health and wellbeing programs increase employee engagement: A global study found that when employee health and wellness was managed well, employee engagement increased from 7% to 55%, while self-reported creativity and innovation increased from 20% to 72%.
This research demonstrates that workplace mental health is a critical strategy in driving employee productivity, engagement and retention.
Job candidates today also expect that their new or prospective companies will provide a framework for mental health and wellbeing support. With this in mind, businesses that want to recruit and retain top talent should strongly consider health and wellness an imperative.
How to prioritise workplace mental health
Ensuring employee mental health is recognised, acknowledged and implementing a framework are all critical factors for businesses. Here are five key areas to consider:
1. Get buy-in from leadership
Ensure there’s a clear commitment to mental health and wellbeing from organisational decision-makers. If CEOs, executives, managers and HR are not talking about it regularly with employees, it’s clearly apparent that there is no or low priority for staff mental wellness for the business. The consequences of this can be dire.
2. Create a mental health and wellbeing policy
Outline your company’s dedication to employee wellbeing, how you’ll measure success and what steps you’ll take to achieve your objectives as part of your formal policies. Involve employees in the planning process and show you value their input, both initially and ongoing via regular reviews.
3. Communicate with your employees
Let your employees know the steps you’re taking to prioritise mental health and wellbeing. You should be fostering a transparent, comfortable yet confidential work environment for your staff members to share how they are feeling.
Also provide them with support resources – both internal and external. Useful hotlines include:
- Beyond Blue – telephone and online support service counselling
- Lifeline – 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services
- myCompass – an interactive self-help service that aims to promote resilience and wellbeing for people experiencing mild to moderate stress, anxiety and/or depression
- Ask ‘R U OK?’ A practical guide for the workplace
- How to have an R U OK? conversation: Presentation kit
- SANE Australia – support, training and education on mental illness
- Mental Health Australia - list of support services
4. Introduce fun and engaging activities
Roll out activities and initiatives that promote wellbeing, such as:
- Office or virtual yoga, meditation or stretching sessions
- ‘Giving back’ staff CSR/charity days
- Gym membership discounts
- Fitness challenges and fun runs
- Flexible hours or the option to work from home
- Healthy office snacks
5. Measure your success
Finally, make sure to track the outcomes of workplace mental health training and initiatives with staff surveys or other metrics. Above all, it’s important to use these metrics to refine and improve your approach over time.
Workplace mental health resources
Here are some valuable rsources to help you get started:
- Look After Your Mental Health: printable calendars for October Mental Health Month
- Here but not really here: A workplace campaign reminding people to trust their gut instinct and start a conversation with a colleague they’re worried about. This kit includes posters, email copy and a PPT presentation
- Would you say something?: A workplace campaign reminding people that we've all got what it takes to start a conversation with someone we're worried about. This kit includes posters, stickers and email copy
Join over 60,000 readers!
Get a free weekly update via email here and help kick start your career.