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How to nurture good mental health at work

Mental health issues, you often can’t see them on the surface. They are not quite as obvious as a broken bone. And yet they’re all around us. One in six people each year will suffer from at least one common mental health issue. And by 2030 it could become the world’s leading global illness, with anxiety and depression being the most common form.

There’s a lot here for employers to think about.  Employers and employees alike all lead incredibly busy, and in many cases complicated lives. So, it is not surprising that work related stress flies completely under the radar of many employers.

More than 20 million sick days each year are taken by Australian workers suffering from stress-related illnesses, costing the Australian economy $14.8 billion annually, according to research from Medicare 24/7 Health Advice Line (MHAL).

Severe stress in the workplace is hindering 85 per cent of working Australians and 15 per cent of affected employees are taking at least one sick day a month

Absenteeism is unfortunately not the only stress-related preventable cost to the Australian economy, with presenteeism costing more than $25 billion annually.

Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when an employee affected by stress or illness does not function to their full ability while on the job. On average, presenteeism causes six working days’ worth of productivity to be lost every year per employee, according to MHAL research.

There’s no sure-fire way of preventing mental health issues affecting your staff and impacting your business. But with these small improvements to the way they’re managed, you could make the world of difference to your employees’ health and your bottom line.

Remove the stigma! Mental health isn’t something openly talked about in the office. Most prefer to suffer in silence, which only serves to worsen the problem. Your staff need to know that they can approach you about these issues, that your organisation will support, not punish them. With a culture of openness and the fear of stigmatisation removed, you’re more likely to learn what’s causing your employees’ stress so you can tackle it.

Work / life imbalance is known to be a key cause of work related stress and mental health issues. Are staff overdoing it? If yes, are they laden with too great a workload? Is this short term or systemic? Some issues may be tackled simply by working smarter and more efficiently. Work with staff to find the best solution. You and your managers should be trained to recognise when an employee is struggling and know how to react to it, i.e. spotting if somebody isn’t taking adequate breaks. Lead by example and don’t encourage a long-hours culture.

Bullying and harassment isn’t blamed for as much workplace stress as the work life balancing act. But it’s one that’s absolutely crucial to stamp out. Don’t have the anti-bullying policies to back yourself up? Get them in place!

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). Responsible employers can provide their team with the tools to independently tackle their stress in and outside of work. Bigger businesses have long offered counselling and access to a rich support infrastructure to their teams. SMEs who offer EAP, grant their staff access to free, confidential support to help them overcome the obstacles that’re impacting their mental health.

If you have employees who are showing signs of poor mental health, or you want to be prepared if they do in the future, get in touch with The HR Dept. We can help you put the right structures in place to manage mental health effectively.