Today is ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ and Thursday is ‘R U OK? Day’ – two very important dates in the calendar year allowing us to reflect, raise awareness and discuss the importance of mental health in our workplaces.
According to various data, it is estimated that one in five Australian employees report having taken time off work in the last 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell. This is costing the Australian economy more than $10 billion per year in absenteeism, lost productivity and cultural dysfunction. If left unattended, this could create more harm to businesses.
Creating mentally healthy workplaces is everyone’s role in a business, however leaders should take the lead and create a positive environment to encourage employees with mental health to come forward. However, this is where things get complicated as despite genuinely caring about the wellbeing of their employees, leaders lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to deal with these issues. To overcome this, businesses are encouraged to develop strategies and an action plan on training their leaders on how to effectively tackle mental health in the workplace, breaking the stigma and as a result shifting culture.
According to a research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Australia, on average businesses receive a return of $2.30 for every $1 they invest an effective workplace mental health. Therefore, initially businesses should implement policies which would allow them to showcase the importance of the topic to their employees and provide clarity on their expectations. Once the policy is in place, it is crucial for them to provide training and awareness sessions to all their leaders so that they know how to deal with mental health issues as it comes up. This should also be supported by adequate resources to ensure that they have everything they need when it’s time to support the employees.
Although it’s not always noticeable, some warning signs could help the employer act early to prevent a work-related mental health condition developing. Some of these signs could be but not limited to; unplanned absences, loss of confidence, emotional responses, not completing tasks on time, increase in errors at work, less participation in work activities, being withdrawn from colleagues, erratic behaviour, inability to concentrate, feeling run down, difficulty remembering things, inability to concentrate, being indecisive to just name a few.
An employer has a duty of care to provide a safe work environment to all its employees, therefore when these signs show, they need to be able to comfortably and at the same time sensitively approach the employee to start the conversation. Employers cannot be expected to act as counsellors, however they will need to be confident to ask the initial questions, encouraging and assisting the employee to seek professional help (or at least initially refer them to the business Employee Assistance Program). It is very important for the leader to not ask an employee outright if they have a mental illness.
CPM Australia’s Wellness@Work
At CPM Australia, we recognise that the workplace plays a vital role in promoting the social and emotional developments of our people. In 2017, we engaged our employees to participate in a survey called Wellness@Work. The survey benchmarked our employees’ perspective surrounding Mind, Body, Purpose & Place. 72% responded that they feel valued, supported and satisfied given the challenges and demands of the workplace; 74% believe the workplace protects & promotes mental health; 73% feel empowered and committed; and 68% feel socially connected and supported.
By scoring positively in these areas, CPM Australia demonstrate being a great place to work; therefore, actively promoting good mental health attract and retaining top talent. This is also reflected in our workforce, where some of our employees roll up their sleeves and voluntarily get involved raising money for services such as Beyond Blue several times in a year. By supporting employees with mental health and encouraging openness, we feel honoured being an employer of choice in areas of diversity and inclusiveness.
This article is prepared to only provide general information about the topic. It is not intended to be used as advice in any way.
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