Mentally Healthier Workplaces
- Take action
Mental health challenges can be experienced by all of us and can include temporary difficulties associated with the normal stressors of life, such as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental illness, where a person is experiencing a mental health condition, is experienced by one in six working aged people. Regardless of whether we are feeling mentally well, experiencing mental health challenges, or mental illness, the role of workplaces in supporting and promoting good mental health is a vital one.
Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness, absence, and long-term work incapacity in Australia. Each year $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions (Safe Work Australia).
Workplaces not only have obligations to employees around mental health under the Work Health and Safety Act but also have much to gain from cultivating mentally healthy environments.
Mentally healthier workplaces design work and support people in their work by ensuring that:
- people are protected from harm to their mental health;
- the work and workplaces promote good mental health; and
- people are supported to continue to contribute to and engage with work when they are experiencing mental health conditions.
Money well spent
Research tells us that being in work is a social determinant of health. That means that just being in work can be good for our health. However, the quality of work that we do is important – good work is good for our mental health.
“‘Good work’ is healthy and safe work where the hazards and risks created by the work are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practical and where the work design optimises human performance, productivity and job satisfaction.” Safe Work Australia
Our performance at work and the quality of our workplace (including the support we are provided) can be closely linked to our physical and mental health. Work that is good has benefits for our mental health and wellbeing.
How can workplaces hope to benefit from such an approach? Through improved worker engagement, increased productivity and performance, reductions in worker health and safety claims and attrition rates, just to name a few of the benefits. In other words, they can expect to gain a thriving business, a place where people can do their best and be their best.
The bottom line for business is that every dollar spent on evidence-informed interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing brings a return of up to $14 in reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and reduction in compensation claims (Black Dog Institute).
We encourage you to incorporate your mental health initiatives into a 12-month health and wellbeing action plan that will see your workplace recognised by Healthier Work for its commitment to workplace health and wellbeing. See our Recognition Scheme page for more information.
A plan of action
There are six steps to becoming a mentally healthier organisation:
- Establish leadership commitment
- Understand the risks and issues in your workplace by consulting with your staff and reviewing your data (check out the People at Work tool to assist you with this step)
- Create an action plan that is tailored to your business
- Consider incorporating your actions into a broader health and wellbeing plan (with support from Healthier Work!)
- Review outcomes every 6-12 months (unless an injury occurs or a hazard is reported)
- Adjust intervention strategies where necessary
Key action areas
Every workplace is different and requires a tailored approach, however, there are six actions that can set your organisation on the path to creating a mentally healthier workplace:
1 Design jobs to minimise harm
2 Promote positive factors
3 Provide information, resources and strategies
4 Intervene early
5 Support recovery
6 Reduce stigma
Check out our practical tips for taking action in these areas, including particular mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic: Mental Health at Work – Practical Tips
*Please check back regularly as this webpage is constantly being updated*
Mental health and COVID-19 resources
ACT Health. COVID-19: Mental Health and Wellbeing (accessed 5 July 2021)
Includes tips on maintaining good mental health and tips for those who are in quarantine or isolation.
Australian Psychological Society. Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for Australians (accessed 5 July 2021)
Includes the following Information Sheets: ‘Maintaining your mental health during social isolation’ and ‘Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety’.
Beyond Blue. Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service (accessed 5 July 2021)
Information, advice and strategies to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health during this time.
Headspace. How to cope with stress related to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) (accessed 5 July 2021)
Provides information targeted to young Australians, aged 12 to 25.
National Coronavirus Helpline – 1800 020 080
Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
SANE Australia has released advice from one of its Help Centre counsellors on managing nervousness or anxiety around returning to workplaces during COVID. Access the advice here.
ACT Government. COVID-19: Businesses and Work (accessed 5 July 2021)
Includes information for workplaces on your obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, how you can support employees, including working safely from home.
Beyond Blue. Heads up: Work and your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak (accessed 5 July 2021)
Information, tips and links to useful resources to help employees, managers and small business owners impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The National Mental Health Commission, in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, has created a series of evidence-based, easy to use guides to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australian workers and encourage mentally healthy workplaces during COVID-19. Resources have been developed for sole traders, small business, as well as medium to large business. Access these guides here.
Small Business: Beyond Blue has launched a mental health coaching program to support small business owners across Australia. The free NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a six-week program that offers support by trained mental health coaches who have a background in small business. Access it here.
Workplace mental health: key documents, programs and websites
Australian Government. National Mental Health Commission (accessed March 2020)
Australian Human Rights Commission (2010). Workers with mental illness: A practical guide for managers
Beyond Blue. Heads Up (accessed March 2020)
Heads Up provides tools for individuals and businesses to create more mentally healthy workplaces. These include resources specifically for small business.
Black Dog Institute. Workplace mental health & wellbeing programs (accessed March 2020)
Capital Health Network. Mental Health Programs (accessed March 2020)
Comcare. Creating mentally healthy workplaces (accessed March 2020)
Comcare offers free online courses on preventing bullying, harassment and other psychosocial hazards. Access them here.
Future of Work Institute, Curtin University. Thrive at work (accessed March 2020)
Mental Health First Aid Australia (accessed March 2020)
People at Work. Australia’s only (free) validated and evidence based psychosocial risk assessment (staff) survey tool, with benchmarking that measures psychosocial hazards and factors.
Queensland University of Technology. EMHPrac (accessed 5 July 2021)
eMHPrac provides a range of resources including brochures, factsheets, videos, webinars, modules, and more, including the popular Guide to Digital Mental Health Resources. Explore the online library to learn about digital mental health resources and how to use them.
Safe Work Australia (2017). Return to work in psychological claims
Safe Work Australia (2015). Handbook – Principles of Good Work Design
This handbook contains information about the ten principles of good work design and how they can be successfully applied to any workplace, business or industry.
Safe Work Australia and SuperFriend (2018). Taking Action: A best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers’ compensation sector
This framework provides practical and evidence-based guidance to assist workers’ compensation insurers and claims managers to better support workers experiencing psychological illness or who are at risk of developing one.
SANE Australia (accessed March 2020)
State of Western Australia (2015). Psychologically safe and healthy workplaces: Risk management approach toolkit
SuperFriend has released a range of new training and support packages for workplaces, with a focus on leadership and frontline staff. The range of package options is available here.
WorkSafe Victoria (2017). Preventing and managing work-related stress: A guidebook for employers.
Ready to get started?
Between February 2020 and March 2021, Healthier Work implemented WorkSafe ACT's Mentally Healthier Workplaces Pledge. This saw 15 local businesses and organisations take the steps to create a mentally healthier workplace. Check out these workplaces on our Pledge Wall.
This pledge program may have now closed, but you can still follow the steps to creating a mentally healthier workplace. Find out how here!
Healthier Work is here to assist you on your journey. Contact us.