Mental Health needs to be taken seriously in the workplace.


Mental health claims make up to 45% of the total number of workers compensation claims made under NSW workers compensation. This number is replicated throughout Australia and indeed most of the world where stats are kept. It is also one of those claims that are all to often put in to the too hard basket for reasons I am perplexed to understand.

Mental health is fairly simple to manage within in a work place. the rules for a "Mentally Healthy Workplace" have been known for decades. It involves the following:

Step 1: Create a positive working environment.

Creating a positive workplace isn't rocket science. Ensuring everyone is valued for the work that they do, making sure that work colleagues are supporting each other and are talking to each other. its not about being everyones best friends, just that they are polite and communicative- sharing the burdens of the work and checking in on each other to make sure any stress (all types of work can be stressful at times) is shared as much as possible.

Step 2: Work loads are manageable.

The lack of capacity within a workplace to complete a task has a few outcomes but each of the "visible" signs of this lack is indicative that someone tasked with that job is suffering because of this lack.  Making workloads manageable used to be one of the functions of human resources and of managers. It seems that in some companies this function has gone the way of the typist pool or the tea lady. The function is still needed to a significant degree, things don't get done unless there are enough resources to do it. The result is a workplace under systemic stress to complete the tasks assigned to it. Inadequate capacity is a sign of a company failing.

Step 3: Discrimination is never tolerated.

This is not just the obvious gender, disability, age, religion or sexual identity that  we all rightly think of when we thing of discrimination. It includes exclusion of others for personality reasons as well. A cop once told me why the police take animal abuse so seriously. If the abuser can do that to an animal, what would they do to a human? the same applies for discrimination, if the discriminator will do this to one person they are likely to do it to another, and another. Discrimination destroys work places, prevents tasks being successfully completed and leads to significant turnover of good staff. It's a downward spiral for a company. The good don't rise to the top, they leave or suffer.

Step 4: The good mental health of  employees (and indeed managers) is seen as a business goal.

The studies don't lie, a healthy workplace is a productive workforce. the most profitable and sustainable companies share this in common. Google, Microsoft and Macquarie Bank all promote a healthy work places and have strategies in place to ensure this is measured. I've worked alongside several companies both big and small, those companies with a strategy to assist with mental health (even those who don't have a written strategy) of their employees are nearly always the market leaders with significant histories of positive results.

A mentally healthy workplace is not rocket science, it doesn't need to involve purchasing break out spaces or bean bags but is does involve an executive and management that sets the tone, continues to assess itself and makes appropriate changes to ensure that the mental health of the workforce is positive and inclusive.

Those companies that lack this attitude are easy to find, just look at where the workers compensation mental health claims are coming from.