We spend the majority of our everyday waking hours working, whether that's in the office, from home, or a little bit of both. Hence, maintaining the well-being of our mental health is essential so that we may perform day-to-day tasks to the best of our abilities.
However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, two in five (43.7% or 8.6 million) people aged between 16 to 85 have experienced a mental disorder. One of the primary causes is work-related stress.
To help support mental health in the workplace, there are many things managers can do, which we cover in this article.
Work-related causes of mental illness
Before diving in and providing information on possible solutions, it’s essential you understand the most common causes of the rise in workplace mental health issues. To give you a quick snapshot, some of these include:
· Inadequate health and safety policies.
· Staff bullying.
· Poor management practices.
· Inflexible work hours and environments.
· Low level of support/resources for employees.
· Favouritism within departments leads to feelings of unacceptance and self-doubt.
Whilst this list highlights only a small proportion of the possible causes of mental health issues within the workplace, there are plenty more where these came from.
So, how can employers create a workplace that supports mental health?
Look out for signs and symptoms
Whilst some employees will openly talk about their state of mind, many prefer to bottle it up in fear of discrimination, reduced career progression, or considered as being petty. Thus, as an employer, you are responsible to look out for the signs.
Bearing in mind not all signs and symptoms will be the same, there are some common red flags you can look out for.
· A decline in work performance.
· Unusually quiet or withdrawn.
· Extreme mood changes (highs and lows).
· Difficulty understanding/communicating with others.
· Difficulty concentrating and learning.
· Increase in health issues (headaches, stomach pains, and other bodily aches and pains).
· More prone to physical accidents (bumping into things, tripping, and falling).
· Inability to carry out daily tasks.
· Increased irritability.
Thankfully, there are a few steps you can put into place to minimise stress in the workplace.
Six tips to support mental health in the workplace
Implementing a few simple steps and changes can make a world of difference, not only to your staff and their well-being but also to the organisation. Some of which include:
1. Encourage open communication. Allowing employees to speak their minds in a non-judgmental setting.
2. Offer a flexible work environment by implementing hybrid work practices and reasonable flexibility in work hours.
3. Build staff resilience through mental health training programs and mentorship.
4. Model healthy behaviours by participating in and encouraging healthy activities such as walking and prioritising self-care.
5. Modify policies and practices to keep up with the times and reduce stress on everyone. This may include revising
- standard work practices,
- work hours,
- paid and unpaid leave, and
- performance reviews.
6. Make your employees feel valued by being inclusive of all and recognising and rewarding staff for doing a good job.
Resources for managing mental health care in the workplace
Trying to manage everything on your own is possible but not a great solution. Thankfully there are plenty of resources out there to support and guide you.
For instance, the Australian Human Rights Commission offers a practical guide for managers on managing mental illness in the workplace.
Beyond Blue also offers helpful resources and programs designed to improve employee mental health and promote mentally healthy workplaces.
You can also download the Mental Health Resources provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The list provides details of crisis support services available 24/7.
Remember, even as managers, you do not have to shoulder this responsibility alone.