Mental health is an increasingly important topic in the workplace. It is estimated that, at any point in time, one in six working age people will be suffering from mental illness, which is associated with very high personal and economic costs. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia and is one of the main health related reasons for reduced work performance. Individuals with mental health problems, and their caregivers, are some of the most stigmatised and marginalised groups in the workplace and often miss out on the many benefits good work can offer.
There is increasing evidence that workplaces can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and well-being of their workers. Every business has a legal and moral responsibility to provide a safe and fair workplace. Creating a mentally healthy workplace has many benefts for both employers and employees. A well designed workplace should support individual mental health and lead to reduced absenteeism, increased employee engagement and improved productivity.
The aim of this report is to provide a detailed review of the academic literature around what constitutes a mentally healthy workplace as well as to identify the practical means by which workplaces can enhance and support the mental health and wellbeing of employees.
There is often a wide gap between what is published in academic journals and what occurs in workplaces. This literature review attempts to bridge this gap by bringing together academics from the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry, the Black Dog Institute and the Australian School of Business to produce a report aimed at a non-academic business audience.
The following report is divided into three sections. The first summarises the current research on what mental health is, how it is influenced by the workplace and what constitutes a mentally healthy workplace. The second section focuses on the evidence for the effectiveness of specific workplace interventions or strategies. The report concludes with a section that seeks to draw together the available evidence to provide practical recommendations for employers who wish to develop a more mentally healthy workplace.