Start a conversation: workplace mental wellbeing

Did you know it’s estimated that 1 in 5 working age people will be suffering from mental illness at any point in time? According to Black Dog Institute, a further one-sixth of the population will be suffering from symptoms associated with mental ill health, such as worry, sleep problems and fatigue, which, while not meeting criteria for a diagnosed mental illness, will be affecting their ability to function at work.

If the mental health of employees is not prioritised, workplaces may have problems with low morale, underperformance, absenteeism, a poor public image, and staff turnover might be higher. On the other hand, workplaces that support the wellbeing of their staff experience three times less absenteeism than less supportive workplaces.

Factors at work that can affect our health and wellbeing negatively include:

  • Workplace stresses, which occur when someone feels that the demands of their role are greater than their abilities or resources to do the work. While stress isn’t the same thing as anxiety or depression, excessive or long-term stress can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition, as can;
  • Inadequate resources provided, the level of work engagement and potential exposure to traumatic events;
  • Lack of support from colleagues and managers, poor relationships, ineffective leadership and manager training availability;
  • Changes to the organisation, support from the organisation as a whole, recognising and rewarding work, how justice is perceived in an organisation, a positive organisational climate  and a safe physical environment.

Mentally healthy organisations are safe workplaces

While the places we work come in all shapes and sizes, mentally healthy working environments generally have a few things in common.

  • Positive workplace culture. Put simply, they’re places where people feel good about coming to work, and everyone’s encouraged and supported.
  • Stress and other risks to mental health are managed. Stress, heavy workloads, unrealistic deadlines, poor communication, uncertainty, lack of flexibility – these and other factors can all contribute to anxiety and depression, and it’s up to managers and leaders to keep them in check.
  • People with mental health conditions are supported. Helping employees to stay at or return to work has clear benefits, both for the individual and the business.
  • Zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. As well as being a legal requirement, protecting employees from discrimination encourages a diverse workforce and ensures everyone gets a fair go.

A number of our flexible employers make mental health support a part of their cultural values, even going as far as winning awards for the initiatives like Ventia. Designed to help to raise awareness, reduce stigma and support those with mental health conditions across the business, the Healthy Minds Champions program taps into the power of personal connections through a mental health peer support network. Over 200 Champions are selected across Australia and New Zealand and receive training and ongoing support to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health, how to have supportive conversations and how to refer people to the right support services that are available.

Similarly, Medibank are leaders in providing their staff with health and wellbeing benefits such as coaching, tools and resources and access to counselling and Employee Assistance Programs.


Creating a mentally healthy workplace

We surveyed our LinkedIn community and found that 42% of voters felt mental health and wellbeing was formally addressed in their workplace. So whilst it’s great to see action, there’s room for improvement. Here are some ideas on how your organisation can take a step towards creating a mentally healthy workplace:

  • Make a commitment to mental health in the workplace by offering education or training in mental health.
  • Focus on the work environment: simple things like natural light, plants, standing desk options, social meeting spaces and quiet spaces.
  • Healthy food options.
  • Flexible working arrangements combined with physical activity discounts from nearby sports facilities.
  • Free counselling through an employee assistance program.
  • Policies to swap pay for leave.



If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Line: 1300 659 467