Written by: Vaughn Sealy – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
Mental health is a growing concern in Australia, affecting millions of people every year. With one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in any given year, there is a clear need for mental health inclusion in the workplace. In this article, we will explore why mental health inclusion is important in the Australian workplace and what steps employers can take to promote it.
Why is mental health inclusion in the workplace important in Australia?
Mental health issues have a significant impact on the Australian workforce. According to a report by PwC, untreated mental health conditions cost Australian employers $4.7 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health in the workplace, with increased stress and anxiety due to lockdowns, social isolation, and economic uncertainty.
In addition, research shows that stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace is a significant barrier to seeking help. A survey by the National Mental Health Commission found that only 52% of Australian workers felt comfortable discussing their mental health with their employers. By creating an inclusive workplace, employers can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and provide their employees with the support they need to manage their mental health concerns.
How can employers promote mental health inclusion in the Australian workplace?
Implementing mental health policies and practices: Employers should develop and implement policies and practices that prioritise employee well-being and recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health. This includes providing mental health resources such as counselling services, support groups, and employee assistance programs. Providing mental health education: Employers can provide mental health education and training for their employees to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. This can include workshops, seminars, and online resources.
Creating a supportive workplace culture: Employers should create a workplace culture that is supportive, accepting, and accommodating to individuals with mental health challenges. This includes promoting work-life balance, flexible work arrangements, and encouraging open communication.
Regularly evaluating mental health policies and practices: Mental health inclusion is an ongoing process that requires continuous evaluation and improvement. Employers should regularly evaluate their mental health policies and practices and seek feedback from their employees to ensure that they are meeting their needs.
Providing mental health support during the COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health in Australia. Employers should provide their employees with mental health support during this time, such as access to counselling services and flexible work arrangements.
There are a few ways that organisations can promote mental health inclusion in the workplace. These include:
- Educating managers and employees on mental health awareness: By providing training on mental health awareness, organisations can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and create a safe space for employees to discuss their concerns.
- Providing flexible work arrangements: Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible hours, and job sharing, can help employees manage their mental health concerns by allowing them to work in a way that suits their needs.
- Providing mental health resources: Organisations can provide mental health resources, such as counselling services, support groups, and employee assistance programs, to help employees manage their mental health concerns.
- Addressing the stigma surrounding mental health: Organisations can address the stigma surrounding mental health by promoting mental health awareness campaigns, celebrating mental health holidays, and offering mental health education programs to their employees.
- Regularly evaluating mental health policies and practices: Mental health inclusion is an ongoing process that requires continuous evaluation and improvement. Organisations should regularly evaluate their mental health policies and practices and seek feedback from their employees to ensure that they are meeting their needs.
In conclusion, mental health inclusion in the Australian workplace is crucial to creating a healthy and productive work environment. By prioritising mental health, employers can improve employee well-being, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and create a positive work culture. It is time for employers to recognize the importance of mental health and take action to create an inclusive and supportive workplace for all employees.
NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.
Beyond Blue. (2021). Mental health statistics. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
National Mental Health Commission. (2014). Contributing lives, thriving communities: Report of the national review of mental health programmes and services. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/getmedia/6b8143f9-3841-47a9-8941-3a3cdf4d7c26/Monitoring/Contributing-Lives-Thriving-Communities-Summary.PDF
PwC. (2014). Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis. Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=6
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