Work Stress is a Leading Cause of Absenteeism and Workcover Claims
15 May 2017 at 8:47 am
As many as one in five Australians have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they have felt stressed, depressed or mentally unhealthy, a new report shows.
Beyondblue’s report, State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, found there was a disconnect between managers and the workforce on how well mental wellbeing was promoted within their organisations.
The report, surveying more than 1,000 participants across Australia, found 71 per cent of leaders believed they were committed to promoting the mental health of staff while only 37 per cent of staff agreed with this.
Long work hours and a lack of adequate work/life balance were to blame.
Nick Arvanitis, head of workplace research and resources for beyondblue, said one of the key things that can contribute to poor mental health in employees was working excessive hours, particularly when they were ongoing.
“Some recent research we did at beyondblue showed that only 12 per cent of employees and 19 per cent of managers agreed their workplaces were definitely managing excessive hours so workers could cope effectively,” Arvanitis said.
“It’s important to note there are many other risks too. For example, employees just not being clear on their roles and what’s expected of them can create real stress. Our research says that less than half of managers and only around a third of employees feel there are clear job descriptions for roles in their workplaces. But there are ways to address this.”
Data from Safe Work Australia showed that workers compensations payouts triggered by mental health conditions cost more than double the average claim and sideline workers for almost three times as long.
The median workers’ compensation payment for mental health-related serious claims was $24,500 between 2008-09 and 2014-15, compared to $9,200 across all serious claim types.
The figures also showed that despite comprising fewer than 10 per cent of all serious claims, mental health-related serious claims resulted in an average of 14.8 weeks off work over the same period, compared with 5.4 weeks for all serious claim types.
Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter said that while employers had a legal duty to maintain a mentally health workplace, it also made good business sense.
In light of beyondblue’s report, beyondblue has released a free training module on their HeadsUp website.
The training module, called Managing Mental Health Risks at Work covers scenarios like unclear work roles, poor change management practices, stressful interactions with customers, workplace bullying and the stress that comes with regularly working extra hours.
“This training module will help employees, and also managers to protect their employees’ mental health. It serves as a reminder that mental health at work is every bit as important as physical safety,” Baxter said