The six pillars of a mentally healthy workplace

Approximately 20% of your workforce are likely to be experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, with this percentage likely to increase steadily over the next twenty years. It is in your best interests to support employees with mental health issues and actively take steps to create a mentally healthy workplace. There are significant costs associated with unsupported mental health issues. These include absenteeism, reduced productivity, high turnover, increased likelihood of accidents and workers’ compensation claims. For example, the impact of untreated depression in the workplace includes:

• 3 – 4 days absence from the workplace for each person with untreated depression;
• 6 million+ working days lost each year across Australian workplaces;
• 12 million days of reduced productivity each year; and
• $9660 in absenteeism and lost productivity per fulltime employee with untreated depression each year.
• In 2010 – 2011 the cost of mental health conditions in Australia was $48.9 billion.



Apart from the financial cost, the employer is subject to various responsibilities related to mental health in the workplace under work health and safety, discrimination, privacy and fair work legislation.

While each organisation is unique, action can be taken across the following six pillars to create a mentally healthy workplace:

Pillar 1: Develop and implement policies which support mental health in the workplace, such as work/life balance or fatigue management policies.

Pillar 2: Raise awareness and reduce any stigma associated with mental health in the workplace.

Pillar 3: Build skills and resilience in your employees to assist them in managing mental health issues of their own and those of their colleagues.

Pillar 4: Improve your workplace culture using evidence-based strategies. A positive workplace culture is associated with lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety.

Pillar 5: Facilitate access to psychological support services, such as Employee Assistance Programs.

Pillar 6: Support programs to facilitate staying at and returning to work.


Recent research has shown that organisations investing in successfully implemented mental health pillars more than double their investment through reduced levels of absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.

iHR Australia and its eLearning production partner, the World Learning Hub, both offer unique training for manager focusing on their responsibility as the custodians of your organisation’s workplace culture and the key elements of the manager’s role in preventing and effectively managing bullying, harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace.