Advocating Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

How does mental health affect the workplace?

Mental health is a terribly important factor in the health and safety of any workplace, however it is largely an unspoken issue. There are many ways that mental health affects the workplace, from culture to morale to productivity. Despite the stigma around mental health, employers need to be open to addressing these issues in order to protect employees’ wellbeing and maintain a healthy workplace.

In organisations, there will be a range of mental health experiences across all employees. This could include individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental health illness due to reasons outside the workplace, or individuals who are experiencing poor mental health due to their displeasing work life.

Excessive productivity demands, poor workplace culture and management, and increasing pressure to balance work-personal life all reflect an unhealthy workplace. These factors can take a huge toll on employees’ health (leading to stress, anxiety or depression) and job satisfaction, all of which can have a substantial impact on an organisation.

The most significant way in which workplaces experience poor mental health of employees is through increased absenteeism. The Southern Cross Health Society ‘Wellness in the Workplace’ survey of 2015 estimates that New Zealand lost approximately 6.7 million working days to absence in 2014. Mental illness causes more days of work lost and work impairment than many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Moreover, a recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity (more).

These statistics present just how consequential poor mental health can be for workplaces and their employees.

What can employers do?

Organisations are only as strong as their people, thus the workplace culture has a significant impact on employees’ mental wellbeing. When an organisation promotes a positive workplace culture, it leads to greater productivity and job satisfaction. Research has found that maintaining high workplace wellbeing leads to 31% more productivity (more).

A positive workplace culture includes:

  • leadership wellbeing commitment and embodiment
  • having a mental health and wellbeing policy and strategy based on best applicable practice
  • clearly communicating policy and practices throughout the organisation
  • educating workers on the sensitive subject through training and workshops
  • a regular review process for assessing progress towards meeting wellbeing objectives
  • the inclusion of employees in the development and implementation of principles and practices

Click here to access the Workplace Guide to Mental Health developed by the Mental Health Foundation for more information.

Employers need to make every effort to overcome the mental illness stigma in the workplace. By prioritising workplace wellbeing, it will not only improve the livelihoods of workers, but will also help them become more productive, creative and engaged in their work.

Working Wise offers a range of health and wellbeing services to help workplaces build a more positive and engaging workplace. We provide coaching sessions covering topics such as Mental Wellbeing, Engaging Leaders and Workplace Bullying. We also provide Health and Safety Consultancy to help develop effective policies that address mental health and wider issues in the workplace.

For more information on our services, contact us by filling out our online form or give us a call on 04 499 0710 today.

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