Mental health crucial for employee retention

Nine in ten Australian employees believe a mentally healthy workplace is important, yet only half believe their company supports this objective, according to the latest report from mental health charity beyondblue.


Released on 16 June, the State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia study found that 91 per cent of employees believe mental health is a key business concern, compared with just 88 per cent who feel the same way about physical safety. Unfortunately, many businesses are struggling to meet the demands workers have concerning mental health, with just 52 per cent of employees reporting their workplace is mentally healthy. In comparison, more than three quarters (76 per cent) agree that their employer is concerned for physical safety.

This failure to support mental health outcomes has influenced a surprising number of Australians to consider leaving their jobs over the past year. According to beyondblue, 52 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men have left a job due to poor mental health environments. “If Australian businesses want to be employers of choice and attract and keep the best and most talented people, they have to create mentally healthy workplaces,” beyondblue Chairman Jeff Kennett explained. “Employers not only have a work health and safety obligation to deliver good mental health in the workplace, but also a moral obligation to support their workers who often spend more time at work than anywhere else.”


Supporting mental health in the workplace can be integrated into business plans, and included in equal employment opportunity training and other relevant training courses. These courses provide employees with an awareness of the importance of appropriate behaviour and its relationship to workplace culture. Supportive practices help to create a culture where employees feel comfortable and are encouraged to discuss their concerns. This further means they are able to identify mental health hazards and appropriately respond to avoid negative outcomes. “It makes good business sense to have people look forward to going to work in a place where they are respected, treated well and are not overloaded with work and expected to meet impossible deadlines,” Mr Kennett said. “This leads to ongoing stress which can develop into depression and anxiety.”