How to support mental health in your workplace
19 July 2019 at 5:29 pm
Knowing how to provide the right mental health support for your staff can be tricky, which is why we asked the experts at Beyond Blue how you can make your workplace more mental health friendly.
Patrice O’Brien is the general manager of Beyond Blue’s workplace and partnerships engagement. She explains why mental health strategies are a vital part of any workplace, and how to get started.
Develop some strategies for your workplace:
Having a solid understanding of mental health is important, as is speaking openly and appropriately about mental health to break down the stigma. You should also learn how to confidently have a sensitive conversation, understand workplace risks which create poor mental health and establish an organisational commitment to reduce and manage those risks.
“It’s important to remember that creating a mentally healthy workplace isn’t just about supporting people experiencing a mental health issue, it’s also about promoting positive mental health and preventing mental health risks in the workplace so that everyone can be their best at work,” O’Brien says.
Don’t jump to conclusions:
If one of your staff members is having a hard time, be supportive and proactive. Don’t jump to conclusions about why their performance has dropped.
“Ask the worker if they’re ok and invite a private conversation, and have the skills and knowledge on how to do this without judgment,” O’Brien says.
“Understand what you and the organisation can offer to accommodate the employee – such as adjusted workload, adjusted hours or leave allowance, and consider and seek agreement from the employee about what to share with colleagues or the team so there can be broader support.”
Communication is key:
Making an effort with mental health shouldn’t be a one-off thing, it needs to be integrated across the entire business.
“Communicating about important issues is best undertaken face-to-face to ensure open discussions can take place and questions and concerns can be raised immediately,” she says.
“Regular workshops and information sessions are one way managers can talk to their employees about mental health.”
What you shouldn’t do:
Tolerating stigmatising behaviours, bullying, offering a mental health diagnosis, and disclosing private information without permission are a few things you should never do if you’re trying to make your workplace mental health-friendly.
It’s also vital you don’t ignore the issue because you’re uncomfortable.
“Many managers can be hesitant to have a conversation or address a concern they might have out of fear of causing offence, harming their working relationship or not knowing how to respond. But it’s important that managers don’t ignore an issue or put off a conversation around mental health,” she explains.
Why do any of this?
Because mentally healthy workplaces benefit everyone, and your workers will be more productive.
“Good mental health is associated with greater productivity, engagement, and creativity in the workplace. By contrast, poor mental health can affect people’s performance at work,” she says.
“There is an average return on investment for employers of $2.30 for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.”