According to a new survey, most Australians find their workplaces mentally unhealthy environments. This is a significant finding particularly for employers who should feel motivated to do something about this disturbing realisation as it has an impact on workplace productivity. Workers that suffer from mental health issues are more likely to take time off work due to depression, anxiety and stress and experts agree that our mental health has an effect on our physical wellbeing, therefore we when we are mentally unhealthy we are more likely to get sick and suffer injuries, resulting in more time off work and lowered productivity.
According to the results of the survey which included the responses of working people, with the majority saying that mental wellbeing was being neglected even more than physical safety on most job sites. An alarming 1126 of the respondents said their employers weren’t interested in helping when it came to mental issues, both personal and job-related.
The survey conducted by TNS Global and commissioned by beyondblue made the discovery that if workers work in a workplace that is mentally unhealthy, they were more likely to take sick days. It also found that one in five workers took time off work in the past year as a result of mental ill health.
The revelations made as a result of the survey have led health advocates and industry groups to urge employers to address mental health issues in the workplace as they would other physical health and safety issues.
It is also in employers’ best interest to do so because mental health issues are costing businesses billions each year, mostly due to absenteeism, reduced productivity and compensation claims.
According to the chairman of Beyondblue, the group who commissioned the survey Jeff Kennett employers can promote a mentally healthy workplace by “empowering” employees to address their mental health issues and seek help. Kennett explains:
‘‘Employers not only have an occupational and health safety to deliver good mental health in the workplace, but also a moral obligation to support their workers who often spend more time at work than anywhere else.’’
The research coincides with a new alliance of business groups as the mental health sector unveils a programme entitled “Heads Up” which will serve as a guide for Australian businesses to help them develop specific mental health plans.
One expert, Kate Carnell of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry goes on to explain the benefits to companies of promoting good mental health in the workplace:
Former beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell, now the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said businesses’ attention to the mental health of its staff could reap dividends through higher productivity, higher staff retention and recruitment.
“We’ve done a lot of good work in Australia over the last 20 years on occupational health and safety, but the focus has primarily been on the physical safety of workers, not as much on their mental health.’’