Positive workplace mental health is pivotal to creating a sustainable and resilient organisation. Striving for more positive workplace mental health will contribute to the engagement and morale of employees, while also creating a happier and healthier environment.
What is workplace mental health?
Workplace mental health is about more than just promoting mental wellbeing. At its heart, it is concerned with creating a positive and productive environment that invests in the highest quality of life and care for their employees. Its goal is to prioritise employees’ social and emotional wellbeing, optimising the enjoyment of life and its potential, goals, connections, while providing tools for coping with stress and sadness.
Positive workplace mental health means everyone, no matter their role, is committed to creating a respectful and inclusive culture. This shared vision encapsulates every aspect of the workplace. It means work demands and hours are realistic, reasonable adjustments are supported, work-life balance is optimised, communication is transparent and respectful, privacy is prioritised, and conversations regarding mental health are openly encouraged.
The benefits of prioritising workplace mental health
Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Australia, with one in five people experiencing mental health issues every year. Although around 90% of Australians believe that workplace mental health is important, only 50% percent of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy.
Workplaces that do not prioritise mental health may be unknowingly impacting the wellbeing of their employees. This not only impacts the individual, but also the broader quality of work produced by the organisation. In effect, excessive long-term stress, unrealistic workloads, poor communication, and uncertainty are all factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing a mental health condition.
Businesses that prioritise positive workplace mental health can expect:
- increased tenure and fewer absences
- improved staff morale
- fewer work-related injuries and illnesses
- fewer workers’ compensation claims
- increased productivity
- improved engagement and job satisfaction
- less absenteeism and turnover
- a more diverse workforce, resulting in greater teamwork and cohesiveness.
How to prioritise workplace mental health
Workplace mental health is a shared responsibility. Everyone – from employees, to managers, to directors and board members – have a role to play in looking after both their own wellbeing and the workplace mental health.
Prioritising workplace mental health isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are a number of very simple steps you can adopt in your workplace to create a positive and supportive environment. By establishing achievable, sustainable actions, you are setting your workplace up for success.
Encourage a positive workplace culture
When staff don’t feel their best, they can’t work their best.
Atmosphere and culture play an integral role in achieving positive workplace mental health. A negative environment can ultimately pollute a person’s wellbeing and taint their ability to work productively and creatively.
Positive workplace culture encourages the creation of spaces where people feel supported and good about coming to work. These workplaces have a clear ethos and set of organisational values that encourage inclusivity and belonging. They foster a sense of pride and ownership among employees and welcome open and honest communication.
Improve workplace design
The work environment can make a substantial difference to the atmosphere and mood of a workplace. Simple adjustments such as natural light, plants, social spaces, and standing desk options can instantly transform the workplace and improve the workplace mental health.
Provide healthy workplace options
In today’s busy world, many workers put their own personal health on the back burner. Living a healthy lifestyle can give you more energy, improve concentration, and help you sleep better. Employers who support staff in their health journey illustrate their understanding and commitment to improving the lives of their employees. Small steps can go a long way in improving workplace mental health, mindfulness, and productivity. Some ways you can support your employees include:
- healthy food options
- flexible working arrangements
- physical activity discounts
- spaces to relax and socialise
- free and confidential counselling services.
Enact a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination
It is incredibly important to discuss mental health openly and encourage others to do so. Sharing personal experiences concerning mental health can decrease fear of stigma and discrimination, and create an environment where staff feel comfortable seeking help.
Not only is it ethically responsible to support and protect the mental wellbeing of all employees, it is also a legal responsibility. Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation require all organisations to provide a physically and mentally safe environment for their employees.
Good communication is key to cementing the success of an organisation, and this is no different when it comes to workplace mental health. Managers play a critical role in creating successful communication channels and, in turn, a positive workplace mental health. As a leader, your staff will look to you to promote awareness, positive culture, guidance, and support.
By initiating regular communication, you offer the opportunity to ask questions and request feedback. This will help keep everyone engaged and active in the quest for positive workplace mental health.
Offer mental health training in your workplace
Mental health workshops are a powerful way of building awareness and understanding around workplace mental health, while empowering your employees to support one another. Workshops help develop practical strategies and tools that encourage your business to create a more supportive, positive, and productive work environment.
EPIC Assist (EPIC) offers a number of customisable mental health workshops. These workshops introduce businesses to the signs, symptoms, triggers, and risk factors of mental health conditions in Australia. They are conducted in a hands-on environment that empowers businesses to undertake brave conversations and create self-care strategies.
Supporting colleagues with mental health conditions in the workplace
Knowing how to support colleagues is a critical step towards creating more positive workplace mental health, but it can be difficult to know what to do in different situations. Creating a workplace mental health strategy can help focus your approach, support, and response if issues arise in the workplace.
When developing a workplace mental health strategy, it is important to recognise that no business or organisation is the same. Your strategy needs to be targeted to the size, location, structure, and specific issues you may face. These factors will ultimately influence every aspect of the strategy.
When developing a workplace mental health strategy, you should:
- build your case
- gain leadership, financial, and human support
- identify needs
- set goals
- develop a plan
- monitor, review, and improve.