Mental health issues in the workplace costs employers $11 billion each year: better mental health makes for better business
Mental illness is one of the leading causes of absenteeism and long-term work incapacity in Australia. Did you know that mental health conditions are costing Australian businesses almost $11 billion dollars each year through absenteeism, reduced work performance, increased turnover rates and compensation claims?
According to research findings conducted for the National Mental Health Commission and the Mentally Happy Workplace Alliance, one in six working age people will live with mental illness, at any one point in time. In addition, there are the many to consider who care for and support people with mental health issues while juggling work and home responsibilities as well.
Depression, a common mental health condition, is currently the leading cause of non-fatal disability; yet only three per cent of Australians identify it as a major health problem.
The ‘Creating Mentally Happy Workplaces’ review tells us that every dollar spent on effective mental health actions reaps a $2.30 return in benefits to the organisation. However, a recent news report focusing on the emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) workforce reveals that the return on mental health initiatives could be as high as $9. According to the national beyondblue conference held in Sydney this year, the annual suicide rate of Victorian paramedics – who experience greater levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, is a staggering four times higher than the rate of employed Victorians.
The conference also highlighted the difficulty many might have with being forthcoming about a mental health condition for fear of being discriminated in the workplace – 35 per cent of workers would not disclose a mental illness to their employer, 48 per cent who took time off due to a mental illness did not disclose the reason to anyone in their workplaces while over 20 per cent have witnessed discrimination in the workplace against people with mental health issues.
Workplaces that support the mental health of all employees can reduce absenteeism and presenteeism (being present at work but unproductive) and increase employee engagement and productivity.
Knowing that the majority of mental illness in the workplace is treatable and potentially even preventable should empower business leaders to commit to making ‘mentally healthy’ changes within the workplace.
Employers need to think of workplace mental health strategy as an ongoing process and a continuous commitment across all levels of the workplace. Seek ways to actively maintain the health and wellbeing of workers and support the recovery of those with mental health problems as well as the caring role that many workers play. Individuals often derive a sense of purpose, social acceptance and opportunity for development through their work, therefore it is a key factor in a person’s recovery towards mental wellness.
A safe and healthy workplace makes good business sense because it can:
• reduce absenteeism costs and turnover costs
• improve staff retention & morale
• minimise stress levels
• avoid litigation and fines for breach of health and safety laws
• avoid lengthy and costly discrimination claims
• avoid industrial disputes
iHR Australia believes team leaders play an important role in creating mentally healthy workplaces. iHR conducts a specific training program to enable team leaders to identify indicators of a current period of mental unwellness and the risk factors which may precede such a period, apply relevant early intervention and performance management strategies and have the confidence to plan, initiate and conduct a conversation with an employee who may be displaying indicators of mental unwellness.
Our carefully structured training program is ideal for supervisors, managers and HR practitioners who want to gain a better understanding around managing mental ill-health in the workplace.
Participants are guided through the key principles of effective and sensitive management of mental health issues with a focus on relevant legal responsibilities and risk management considerations. Using our proven and unique training methodology Workplace Reality Theatre, iHR’s expert facilitator and our actors, will re-enact relevant and engaging scenarios from real-life mental health issues for group discussions.
Importantly, participants benefit from our facilitator’s useful feedback after conducting their own sensitive and effective practice conversations in line with early interventions strategies as well as group case study activities related to reasonable adjustment strategies.