Heads Up: good mental health is good for bottom line

Australian mental health association beyondblue, in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, has recently launched a landmark campaign aimed towards improving mental health outcomes in Australian businesses.

The nationwide initiative, Heads Up, was conceived following a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report that claimed Australian employers could receive an average $2.30 return on every $1 they invest in effective workplace mental health strategies, such as staff wellness programs and related training.

Untreated mental stress and other relevant health conditions result in approximately 12 million days of lost productivity each year. This is equivalent to $650,000 in absenteeism and reduced productivity per 1,000 full-time employees, according to beyondblue.

“This report shows that employers have a responsibility not only to their workers, but also to their businesses’ profitability, to tackle these conditions at work,” beyondblue Chairman Jeff Kennett explained.

“Heads Up will provide them with a tailor-made Action Plan to do this and helps ensure that Australia’s 11.5 million workers receive the support they need to be mentally healthy and productive.”

Employers concerned about the mental health of their workforce are encouraged to visit the official Heads Up site to find out more about the support and guidance available.

Additionally, it is important for HR managers and business owners to understand their legislative requirements in regards to their employees’ mental health.

Under the Fair Work Act, all employers are required to take reasonable steps to provide safe and healthy workplaces. This includes ensuring employees are not discriminated against due to a mental health issue.

“Employers who are mindful of their employees’ wellbeing and introduce supporting policies promote greater worker satisfaction and deliver enormous productivity improvements, making it a truly win-win situation,” beyondblue Chief Executive Officer Georgie Harman said. “Creating mentally healthy workplaces is everyone’s responsibility, but employers need to take the lead.”

Workplace culture clearly plays a part here and it is important that employers are mindful of the need to foster healthy cultures. Patterns of poor behaviour within teams can create a risk to mental health and may lead to bullying and harassment complaints. For this reason, comprehensive bullying and harassment training should be provided to all managers and workers to ensure everyone in the workplace understands what behaviour is expected and how to tackle any issues. Furthermore, leaders and managers should promote a culture which encourages workers to come forward with problems, including behavioural matters and those related to health and wellbeing.

For organisations that want to integrate a mental health strategy into their existing framework, reviewing the organisation’s equal employment opportunity policies and training are a good place to start. Effective training based on a comprehensive policy should help to raise employees’ awareness of their duties and responsibilities regarding disability, bullying and health.