Mental Health in the Workplace: Can your organisation afford not to invest?

On 10 October, individuals and organisations across the globe will recognise World Mental Health Day. Pleasingly, this day is one of many initiatives that are focusing on challenging perceptions about mental illness. Due in large part to this awareness, we are seeing increased recognition of the need to protect, promote and support mental health, not only in our personal lives, but also in the workplace.

Supporting mental health is not only a goal of critical importance in the community, it also makes good business sense, with the statistics speaking for themselves. Take a look at just a few of the financial impacts of mental health:

  • 7,200 Australians are compensated each year for work-related mental health conditions, equating to around 6% of workers’ compensation claims
  • $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions annually (Safe Work Australia)
  • Claims involving mental health conditions are usually associated with an above average time off work and higher than average claim costs. Over the five years between 2010-11 and 2014-15:
    • typical compensation payment per claim was $24,500 compared to $9,000 for all claims, and
    • typical time off work was 15.3 weeks compared to 5.5 weeks for all claims.
  • During this period, one out of every 1,470 full-time employees claimed for a mental health condition every year, and:
    • 41% of claims were caused by harassment, bullying or exposure to violence
    • 91% of claims were attributed to mental stress, and
    • 60% of claims were awarded to workers aged 40 and over.

If these figures weren’t staggering enough, it is estimated that the burden of depression is costing Australian businesses $8 billion per annum in presenteeism and sick leave, which is 220% higher than the rate caused by physical sicknesses.

With so much evidence that poor mental health can take such an enormous toll on both individuals and the organisations they work for, it is clear that a consistent, considered approach is required to ensure employers can work toward creating a mentally well workplace. And while many employers are beginning to consider mental health as a genuine issue that requires addressing, there remains a disconnect between evidence-based approaches and the initiatives being implemented by organisations.

So, what does research recommend when it comes to promoting mental health in the workplace? It all comes down to an integrated approach1. Truly successful organisations programs will reflect the synergies that can be garnered from:

  • Reducing work-related risks to mental health, by considering primary (job demands), secondary (strategies to improve stress responses) and tertiary (treatment) interventions.
  • Promoting the positive aspects of work and organisational culture, by proactively rewarding employee capabilities, focusing on strengths, modelling positive leadership practices, ensuring that work is meaningful and that there is a positive organisational culture
  • Responding to mental illness, regardless of the cause. This may involve providing psychoeducation to improve mental health literacy, or developing early intervention skills to ensure employees know they can ask for health. This should also involve shifting attitudes and removing stigmas around mental illness, to improve the overall organisational culture.

By taking this integrated approach, organisations can avoid focusing on individual cases in a reactive way, and rather, can look at the organisation as a whole, with a much wider net of support.

While many workplaces are yet to become environments where employees are predominantly healthy, happy and supportive, the promise is becoming less elusive, and the rewards of doing so are clear. By implementing an integrated approach that considers prevention and promotion of positive mental health, and effective, holistic strategies around responding to mental illness – we can begin to move the needle.

If you are looking for support in developing systems and cultures to improve the mental health of your employees and your organisation, please reach out to Aon today.

1 Workplace mental health: developing an integrated intervention approach, BMC Psychiatry, 14, 131, LaMontagne, AD., Martin A., Page, KM, Reavley NJ., Noblet,AJ., Keegel, T and Smith, PM (2014).

LinkedIn:

On 10 October, individuals and organisations across the globe will recognise World Mental Health Day. In light of this, we recently released a piece of thought leadership on mental health in the workplace, because mental health is not only a goal of critical importance in the community, it also paramount when considering the success of our organisations.

In this piece, we take a look at the statistics behind mental health in the workplace, share compelling evidence around why it needs to become a priority, and most importantly, provide a starting point to begin focusing on this within your organisation.

Twitter:

Ahead of #WMHD, we look at why organisations need to focus on #MentalHealth for the performance & wellness of their people & their business.

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