March 9, 2018

The benefits of a mentally healthy workplace

The benefits of a healthy workplace are well documented. But, as we mentioned in our recent blog about the most important HR trends for 2017, the need to create a mentally healthy workplace is becoming increasingly important too.

After all, statistics show that one in five employees will be experiencing a mental health condition. A high percentage of workers suffering from mental health conditions costs Australian employers $10.9 billion every year.

Arguing the business case for a mentally healthy workplace

That means the business case for a mentally healthy workplace is a strong one.

Research by Pricewaterhouse Coopers shows that for every dollar you spend improving the mental health of your staff, you can expect a return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.

Taking a proactive approach to mental health also builds your reputation as an employer of choice, helping you recruit and retain the best and brightest people.

Research by Instinct and Reason found that three-quarters of Australian employees say a mentally healthy workplace is important when looking for a job.

A mentally healthy workplace can also help your bottom line when it comes to avoiding legal disputes too. That’s because all employers must comply with certain laws, including:

  • Discrimination: The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 says that employers cannot discriminate against or harass workers with a disability. This includes mental health conditions. Employers are also required to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of workers with mental health conditions.
  • Work health and safety: Work health and safety legislation compels employers to make their workplace both physically and mentally safe and healthy, as far as practicable.
  • Privacy: Privacy legislation says employers cannot disclose a worker’s mental health status without that person’s consent.
  • Fair work: Under Commonwealth industrial law employers are forbidden from taking adverse action against a worker because of their mental health condition.

Most importantly, showing a genuine personal interest and concern for the mental well-being of your people is important. Translating to an authentic people-focussed culture,  that is a benefit money can’t buy!

 What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?

So, if developing a mentally healthy workplace has strong business benefits, the next logical question is what exactly does a mentally healthy workplace mean?

A mentally healthy workplace goes well beyond simply having a positive workplace culture. It’s about asking the question when you notice someone is not being themselves. Staff appreciated the opportunity of being able to speak openly about their mental health and feel supported. Ensuring that workplace practices and expectations are not contributing to a detrimental environment. Lastly, it’s about having the right support system in place.

The clearest way to demonstrate this environment is by graciously approaching an employee if they show signs of a mental health condition.

What to do when an employee is suffering from a mental health condition

When a staff member experiences a mental health condition, it can affect the entire team. Without clear communication from managers, there are potential risks. Colleagues may judge the person to be ‘slacking off’ or not pulling their weight.

It’s no wonder that many people experience anxiety or depression based from their colleagues’ reactions.

On top of this, the privacy legislation says that you must protect the employee’s right to privacy. This means you need to communicate what’s going on without providing specific details of their condition. So, discretion is key.

Making reasonable adjustments to improve mental health

The Disability Discrimination Act says you need to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of workers suffering from a mental health condition. The first port of call is having a discussion with the worker themselves.

It’s important to avoid assumptions when communicating with them. Instead, focus on helping them identify their own stressors and potential difficulties. Then work through solutions together.

Just as importantly, talk about their strengths and what they enjoy about their job – and look for ways to bring this out in your plan to improve their mental health.

Want more?

If you’re concerned that someone in your workplace is suffering from a mental health condition or you want to create a more mentally healthy workplace, get in touch. We have a wealth of experience helping workplaces become more mentally healthy.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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