Tips to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
7 October 2013 at 10:13 am
Improving mental health in the workplace can save organisations from the direct and indirect costs of mental health problems, according to mental health Not for Profit beyondblue.
Offering advice on its website on how to build a mentally healthy workplace, the organisation has listed some tips on how to build skills to improve mental health and develop a functional, high-achieving workplace.
beyondblue’s six areas of action for organisations to develop are: develop and implement policies; raise awareness and reduce stigma; build skills and resilience; improve workplace culture and job design; support access to psychological support services; and support staying at (and returning to) work.
It says that to build a mentally healthy workplace, there needs to be commitment from senior leaders and business owners.
“It is vital that they make a visible, long-term commitment to improving the focus of mental health in their workplace and making lasting, positive changes,” it says.
It also stated that it was essential that employees participate in efforts to improve the focus on mental health in the workplace.
“Their input must be sought in every step from the planning through to implementation and review,” it says.
beyondblue also says that if a workplace is willing to create initiatives to improve the focus on mental health, adequate resources need to be in place to make sure initiatives are successful.
“In many instances, this may simply involve dedicating time to specific actions such as developing and promoting a mental health policy, or making mental health resources available to employees,” it says.
“Even if workplace initiatives have been successful at the outset, it is important to ensure these initiatives are sustained. Lasting change requires actions that are sustained and communicated and these actions need to become part of the everyday operations of the workplace.”
beyondblue also says that it’s important to remember that depression and anxiety, and work-related stress are very different things – depression and anxiety are clinical illnesses and stress is not.
However, it says “prolonged or excessive job stress is still a risk factor for mental health problems”.
beyondblue says job stress can include: high levels of pressure; no involvement in decision making; work overload or pressure; lack of control and participation in decision making; unclear work role; job insecurity; long working hours; bullying; poor communication; and, inadequate resources.
It states that organisations can address the issues of job stress by putting in place “protective factors” including: strong leadership; strong morale; employee consultation and involvement in decision making; collaborative peer working relationships; effective training; and, effective mental health policies and programs.
“There is no one way to improve the mental health of workplaces, but there are evidence-informed plans of action that can be effective in workplaces of all sizes,” beyondblue says.
“Employers need to choose which strategies will best suit their business, based on their organisational needs, readiness and resources.”
beyondblue recommends the following programs to assist in addressing and improving mental health in the workplace: beyondblue National Workplace Program; beyondblue Workplace online; Mental Health First Aid; SANE Australia Mindful Employer; and Comcare's Mental Health Wellbeing at Work Program.