How to Create Mentally Healthy Workplaces

In light of October being Mental Health Month, Acacia’s monthly blog will focus on ‘How to Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace’.

Almost half of the Australian population will experience mental health difficulties at some point in their lifetime, most commonly during their working years. Research shows that mental health and work both impact each other and so, by creating a mentally healthy workplace, organisations can improve their staff’s wellbeing and, in turn, see improved workplace outcomes.

This article will explore what a mentally healthy workplace is, why this is so important to create and maintain one, and how you can contribute to making your workplace mental health conscious.

Mental Health Within the Workplace

Mental health refers to an individual’s psychological and emotional wellbeing, most commonly referring to depression and anxiety. 1/5 of Australians will experience mental health difficulties each year, with almost half of Australians experiencing mental ill-health at some stage of their life.

Mental ill-health not only is hugely debilitating on the individual suffering, but also impacts the wellbeing of their friends, family and support systems. Mental health also has a huge impact on the workplace, impacting the employee, the employees surrounding them and the overall business performance.

Mental health issues within the workplace have significant impacts, including:

Mental health in the workplace costs the Australian economy almost $60 billion per year. Wider, macroeconomic impacts within the workplace include:

However, what research has also found is that there are key factors in the workplace that can lead to mental ill-health and reduced wellbeing in the employees of this workplace. Factors that have been linked to increased prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace include:

Therefore, mental health and the nature of the workplace can significantly impact one another. If we flip this round, what this means is that workplaces can have a huge impact on improving the wellbeing and mental health of their employees as well as work to prevent the development of mental health disorders by creating a ‘mentally healthy workplace’.

What is a Mentally Healthy Workplace

A mentally healthy workplace is one which supports those with mental health, helps prevent mental health disorders developing, as well as boosts awareness and reduces stigma around mental health.

Mentally healthy workplaces consist of the following key elements:

Mentally healthy workplaces will not only be able to help those suffering with mental health difficulties recover, they can also help protect their employees from developing mental health disorders and enjoy improved wellbeing.

Others benefits of a mentally healthy workplace to the organisation include:

How to Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s responsibility and everybody has a crucial role to play. However, dependent on your role in the organisation, you can focus on different aspects of creating a mentally healthy workplace. Therefore, we have created 3 different ‘5 Top Tips’ sections on how to create a mentally healthy workplace dependent on your role – organisational leader/business owner, manager/supervisor/leader, employee.

5 Top Tips for Organisational Leaders/Business Owners

Show you are Committed to Mental Health in the Workplace

Make sure that creating a mentally healthy workplace is part of your policies and procedures and that all your managers know about these procedures. Ensure you have a clear action plan at how you are addressing mental health in the workplace and that this is reviewed. Regularly assess your employee’s wellbeing, mental health and satisfaction.

Talk about Mental Health Openly to Reduce Stigma 

Make sure there are awareness campaigns and mental health promotion days at work so that there is the ability to talk regularly about mental health. If you are at the top and talk openly about mental health, you can shape your entire company’s culture for the better.

Have a Zero-Tolerance Approach to Bullying and Discrimination

Make sure you have strict policies around identifying, managing and prevention workplace bullying and discrimination

Allocate Mental Health ‘Champions’ or Encourage Managers 

Allocate mental health champions that have the skills to influence and create a mentally health workplace – maybe a mental health team that works across departments to promote, identify and support mental health in the workplace. Reward managers for creating mentally healthy workplaces through events such as team-building days.

Train Yourself, and your Managers in Mental Health

Training in mental health awareness and managing mental health has been found to be hugely important when creating a mentally healthy workplace. Research has found that leaders with 4 hours of training in mental health have significantly improved productivity outcomes in their team, specifically reduced sick days and absences. Through your EAP, you can access workplace training in Mental Health through their sister company, The Workshop Lab. 

5 Top Tips for Managers/Supervisors/Leaders

Provide your employees with job control

Make sure that your employees feel they have control over how, when and where they complete their work. This may include regular one-to-one’s allowing open discussion of roles, flexible working arrangements, or regular team meetings discussing their roles and the team dynamics.

Create a sense of social cohesion and connectedness in your team/employees

Create regular team-building activities within your teams such as staff lunches, drinks, outings. Work-site physical activity has huge impacts on reducing work stress – set up a lunch time running group or arrange a fitness instructor to come on-site 

Support individuals in the workplace with a mental health condition

Make sure that if you are supporting an employee with a mental health condition, you regularly check in with how they are going without being intrusive. Make sure you create an action plan with the employee to help them adjust their workload or role to manage their mental health difficulties.

This might look like creating a return to work plan, adapting the employee’s work hours to accommodate appointments relating to their mental health, reducing their workload to reduce work stress. If they give you permission, see if you can collaborate with their health professional to make sure their working arrangements suit their needs.

Make sure roles are clearly defined and the workload in these roles are realistic

Make sure that your employees are given clear role descriptions and have clarity over the expectations of their role. Ensure that they are not carrying out two roles with conflicting tasks that are unmanageable. Make sure that your employees feel that their workload is manageable – if they don’t ensure to action this 

Get advice

If you are unsure about how to effectively manage your employee’s mental health as well as your own in a difficult role, you can contact Acacia Connection and access our Manager Support services where you can receive advice and support regarding managing difficult situations. If you are concerned about one of your employees, always speak to your HR, your manager or refer them to the EAP 

If you feel you require training in mental health or leadership skills – speak up! Ask your organisation to provide you with either leadership training or mental health training so you proactively manage this.

5 Top Tips for Employees

Educate yourself about mental health

See if you can gain access to training or become involved in learning more about mental health through your work to support those around you. 

Support initiatives aimed at improving mental health in the workplace

If there are team-building activities being set up by your work, even if you’re busy, get involved! You can not only enjoy feeling more sense of connection to your peers but might be making a huge difference to your colleagues’ mental health by participating.

Take care of your own mental health and safety
Make sure you carry out self-care activities both in and outside of work – this might include going for lunch time walks or scheduling dinner after work with a friend. Speak up if you feel your workload is unmanageable or your work stress is too high –speak to your supervisor or manager about changing this. Try to set boundaries around work by switching off fully from work when you get home, try not to take emails home or work overtime consistently.

Support your peers and their mental health
Make sure to keep your eyes open and look at how your employees are doing. If you notice a change in a colleague’s behaviour or maybe reduced work performance that makes you concerned, make sure to check in with them and gently ask them if they are okay. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or you are concerned about this person’s mental health or safety, speak to HR or your manager for support. Make sure to know you can refer your colleagues to the EAP for support when they need it or call the EAP yourself to get advice about to manage this. If a colleague has let you know they are struggling, make sure to regularly and gently check in with how they are doing to show you care.

Get support

If you or one of your colleagues is struggling, make sure to call your EAP for support. Speak to your HR, or Manager if you are worried about someone at work but don’t know what to do. Speak to your manager about supporting your work responsibilities if you are struggling with mental health difficulties. 

Final Words

Regardless of your role in your organisation, we can all make a vital contribution to creating a mentally healthy workplace. So why not start by trying one of these top tips this Mental Health Month, and see what a difference you can make to the workplace you are a part of, and the people within it.

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia Connection for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 | Text or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W: