Awareness into action: a holistic approach to cultivating mentally healthy workplaces in Australia

Mental health Mental health promotion Employee mental health Australia

Executive Summary

Every day, millions of Australians come to work while experiencing mental ill-health. For many, this will be a temporary condition with a temporary impact on their professional and personal lives. For others, mental illness can have life-long effects – including in their working life.

Most Australian employers now fully recognise and accept the importance of employees’ mental wellbeing in building successful and sustainable organisations. Increasingly, they also understand their role and responsibility in supporting mental wellbeing.

With this understanding comes the big question: how best to create a mentally healthy workplace?

In this report, we seek to show that a mentally healthy workplace can only be achieved when it is a business priority. We do this by bringing together key research findings and other expert resources to put forward a holistic approach to help employers transform awareness into action that promotes positive mental health in Australia’s workplaces.

Our recommendations are made in the increasingly pressing context of the significant rise of mental health conditions as a proportion of overall injuries in the workplace. It is a context that means it has never been more important to move from discourse to action.

That is not to suggest that action is not already under way. In recent years, employers, government agencies, and mental health experts have made major strides not just to increase awareness, but to improve responses to mental ill-health. Increased investments from both the government and employers, as well as programs, technology and toolkits developed by a range of organisations, have certainly contributed to this progress.

Despite this, our view, supported by our own research and others’, is that more needs to be done to close the gap between what employers are doing to support mental health in the workplace and workers’ perception of what should and could be done.

In this report, we outline some key suggestions to help employers close this gap. Together, they comprise a holistic approach that encompasses five key action areas:

  • Promoting the mental health benefits of physical activity and good general health
  • Fostering mental health and awareness through training, mental wellbeing leave and encouraging transparent dialogue
  • Creating positive organisational design that directly influences employee motivation and happiness
  • Nurturingapositiveworkplaceculturethatis transparent and inclusive
  • Developing partnerships and alliances between government, insurers, mental health professionals and other entities to improve communication, engagement and mental health recovery.

We understand that the way and extent to which different organisations might choose to, or be able to, focus on these action areas must necessarily vary. However, no matter the area or focus, we would like to highlight the common thread that runs through every recommendation: that it puts the employee at the centre.

Most of all, we hope that this report provides practical guidelines for Australian employers to reflect on how they can continue on their journey towards improving mental health in their organisations.

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