CLAIRE DELLORA explains why workplace mental health and well-being is good for business.
Mental health and well-being in the workplace is becoming a hot topic for business leaders with promises of increased productivity and profitability, lower sickness levels and compensation costs. So, what does a mentally healthy workplace look like and what can employers do to create a workplace within which their employees can thrive?
The latest research conducted by SuperFriend, a national workplace mental well-being organisation, asked over 5000 workers across Australia about the current state of mental health and well-being at their workplace. The ‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey’ measures workplace mental health and well-being against 38 desired state indicators. These indicators are grouped into four key domains: Leadership, Connectedness, Policies and Practices, and Capabilities and Culture.
SuperFriend’s insights strategist Dr Nerida Joss says awareness is increasing, with three in five workers reporting that investing in workplace mental health and well-being would improve productivity and one in two workers believing it would reduce compensation claims and associated costs.
Employee expectations of a mentally healthy workplace are also on the rise, with two in five workers reporting they have previously left a job because of a poor workplace mental health environment.
“The importance of investing in workplace mental health and well-being is on the radars of many business leaders, but a lot of employers simply don’t know where to start. Our research is telling us that two in five workers believe employers lack the skills and training to address mental health and well- being issues,” Joss says.
According to the research, Australia is about halfway towards optimal mental health and well-being in the workplace with greater progress in the areas of Leadership and Connectedness compared to Policies and Practices, and Capabilities and Culture. The 38 characteristics that have been identified as indicators of a mentally healthy workplace can be used by organisations to get a pulse check on their own current state of mental health and well-being. The survey results can also help to prompt action by identifying an organisation’s strengths and indicating opportunities for improvement.
As a first step, Joss suggests that workplaces create a health and well-being committee, if they don’t already have one, with representation from across the organisation. This approach allows the opinions from different levels of the business to be heard. Only one in every five workers reported that organisation- wide consultation was currently in place.
“Business owners and leaders are likely to see their workplace environment in a more a positive light,” Joss says. “So, it is important
to ask the whole organisation for feedback to get an accurate understanding of issues and opportunities. Workplace health and well-being is more than just the fruit box, subsidised yoga sessions or having the right policies in place – a mental health and well-being strategy that is actively promoted and implemented ensures initiatives are based on need, are measurable and can create long-term outcomes.”
Joss says the survey shows that one in two workers are not aware of any mental health and well-being policies in place at their workplace while only one in six workers believes their workplace policies are being implemented effectively.
Leaders who set a positive example and walk the talk can support the development of a mentally healthy workplace that brings these policies alive, raises awareness and reduces the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Through its research, SuperFriend also discovered what the most mentally healthy organisations are doing to support the mental health and well-being of their employees. Workers who responded to the survey and reported that 80 percent of the indicators were in place had common themes to their responses.
According to these workers, their workplace environment has employees who are friendly and courteous and managers who are accessible and who listen to their employees.
These organisations make an effort help their employees find purpose and meaning in their work and create a culture that encourages open discussion about issues that affect mental health and well- being. These workers were also more likely to report loving their job and describing their employer as one of the best in the sector with regard to creating and sustaining a mentally healthy workplace.
“To assist employers with how to get started, the report includes evidence-based actions in each of the four domains,” Joss says.
“For example, by fostering a culture of care across the organisation, employees will feel more connected and valued, and from the report we know connected workers are twice as likely to report being happy in their job.
“To achieve this, it may be as simple as colleagues being courteous to each other by greeting each other in the morning, smiling, making eye contact or saying thank you. Other solutions include creating spaces to connect with others away from their main work environment.”
SuperFriend is focused on creating positive, healthy and safe working environments. It works with businesses to support, develop and embed workplace mental health and well-being practices, as well as guiding organisations to build supportive and high performing teams through workplace programs and resources.
For more information, visit superfriend.com.au/resources/indicators-thriving-workplace.
This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.