I'm no Wonder Woman - Supporting the mental wellbeing of business leaders

Reports estimate that 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their lifetime and the mental health and wellbeing of employees is recognised as a significant workplace issue.

Businesses and regulators have now acknowledged that psychosocial hazards should be managed as a safety risks and that employers have work health and safety duties in relation to psychological hazards.

These obligations mean that managers and those in supervisory positions are often placed at the forefront of creating a mentally healthy workplace whilst also being called upon to provide support and assistance to employees with mental health conditions – both work-related and non-work-related. In small and medium business, the owner/operator is often the person responsible for providing personal support to employees who are suffering mental health conditions during their illness and recovery.

World Mental Health Day was marked last week, the aim of which is to raise awareness of mental health issues. It is a timely reminder for all employees that mental health and wellbeing is an “all of workplace issue” and that owners, managers and supervisors may also be dealing with their own work or non-work-related mental stress.

Eddie Howe, the manager of the English Premier League football club Bournemouth recently commented on the importance of recognising the pressure on managers when he spoke to Melissa Reddy at JOE. Howe said,

“People look at a manager as though they’re bulletproof, as though they’re superhuman in a way and can just carry on regardless of what happens. But we’re all human, we all have things going in life that makes it quite difficult for us at times too.”

In relation to work-related mental stress, the SafeWork Australia Annual Statement of Psychosocial Health and Safety and Bullying in Australian Workplaces (4th Edition, 2017) identified that from workers compensation claims, the most common causes of mental stress included:

• work pressure;
• work-related harassment and/or bullying;
• exposure to workplace or occupational violence;
• exposure to a traumatic event;
• other mental stress factors;
• other harassment; and
• suicide or attempted suicide.

These factors are not unique to employees and it is often those in leadership positions who feel great pressure and responsibility.

Employees should be encouraged to understand the work and non-work-related mental stress faced by their employer’s leaders and offer their support and empathy in tough times. This will lead to a workplace where ‘care’ is a core value that applies to everyone regardless of their role or title.


Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

02 9256 7500 |sydney@workplacelaw.com.au

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog.

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