Mental health in the workplace is still an issue that many employers would prefer to brush under the carpet, according to Fit For Work Director and Occupational Medicine Specialist David Beaumont
“While changes are being made across many industries to keep people mentally and physically well, there is still plenty of room for improvement,” he says.
One of the barriers to improving mental health in the workplace is that many employers don’t know where to begin. “There is a real fear of talking about it and one of those fears is that management don’t fully understand how to tackle it,” David says.
Inviting staff to take part in an engagement survey can be a good starting point. “Asking employees what works and doesn’t work in the workplace, and what they would like to see happen, opens up the chance for conversation.”
“Staff like that they’re being asked their opinion and can openly express how things really are for them at work. Once employers have this feedback, it is critical that they do something about it.“
“Often the things that staff are seeking to achieve greater positivity and happiness in their lives can be really simple,” David says. Flexible working arrangements are one of the most commonly requested changes.
“The nine to five work day doesn’t fit well in a lot of people’s modern complex lives. If there is a bit of flexibility from employers, then people will feel valued and in turn will go the extra mile for their employer”.
Staff also often want more opportunities to get to know their co-workers, including outside- of-work social events. David suggests introducing some healthy competition, like STEPtember – a team challenge where participants try and achieve 10,000 steps a day as a group. Even something as simple as shared morning teas or a lunchtime walking group helps to build a happier environment.
Ultimately, David says the key to improving workplace mental health is making sure the door for conversation is always open.
“Many employers don’t know that for every dollar spent on health and wellbeing, there is a $3 return on increased productivity. Don’t wait until you think something is wrong with a staff member to approach them, make yourself approachable from the beginning and issues can be tackled much faster.”