Posted on 15/10/18 in
This month is a fantastic opportunity to put your own mental health and the mental health of the people around you in the forefront of your mind.
With one in five working Australians reporting that they have taken time off due to feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy in the past 12 months, it is critical that we become better at recognising and supporting mental health. The workplace plays an important role in the health of its employees. When employees describe their workplace as mentally unhealthy, mental wellbeing figures jump from one in five, to almost one in two. With alarming rates of mental health issues, it is time to start the conversation about how workplaces can best support the mental wellbeing of its employees.
What does good mental health look like?
According to the World Health Organisation, good mental health is a state of wellbeing where an individual is able to be productive, cope with normal everyday stressors, have a positive contribution and recognise their own potential. Good mental health is not only the absence of mental illness, it is about positive emotional and mental wellbeing, which not only benefits the employee, but it also has a range of benefits for the bottom line of the business that they work for. Mentally healthy workers feel good and are functioning at their best. Mentally healthy workers are more productive than those who are experiencing less than optimal health. These workers tend to be more satisfied with their job and take less absence days. By upgrading the work environment to promote mental health, employers can experience gains in productivity. Research has shown that a 20% decrease in emotional wellbeing in employees is linked to a 10% decrease in workplace performance. At the end of the day, employees who aren’t feeling well, can’t perform at their best.
Most of us are generally aware and are good at looking after our physical health and seeking treatment when needed, yet the same mindset doesn’t often apply to looking after mental health. In fact, only 46% of people with a mental illness will receive professional help. With this figure in mind, we need to learn to address mental health issues with the same level of importance as physical issues.
What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?
A mentally healthy workplace prioritises open communication and the absence of stigma, which in turn, minimises the risk of psychological harm as employees feel safe to discuss their concerns. Research has demonstrated that when employees feel their workplace is mentally unhealthy they are unlikely to disclose if they experience a mental health condition or seek support from HR or management.
How do you know if someone is struggling?
It can be hard to recognise when an employee may be experiencing reduced mental health, which might be why it isn’t addressed as often as it should be. The difficulty lays in the fact that on the surface individuals may present as being well, however they may be quite unwell.
Despite this, there are some indicators which employers can look out for, some of which include major changes to appearance, performance or behaviour. This may look like increases in physical illness, changes in appearance, increased tiredness, performance decline or even changes in motivation. If you notice a major change in any of your employees or you are concerned that they may not be feeling their best, the most effective thing you can do is actively ask the question, “Are you okay?”
If you do notice a change in an employee that has you concerned, it may be time to have a conversation with them about their wellbeing.
5 ways to check on and ask “Are you okay?”
- Time and place - Ensure you have chosen an appropriate time and space to approach your employee, be prepared to give them the time they may need.
- Listen with no judgement – offer your support, discuss the ways that you can support them at work and listen with an open mind.
- Encourage them to seek professional support or provide details and services of your EAP provider.
- Normalise their experience, its ok not to be ok.
- Check back in – make a plan to regularly check in with them and let them know that their open communication is valued.
Mental health is an important issue for all Australians and workplaces. By investing in, and ensuring the health and wellbeing of people at your workplace is top priority, you will increase productivity and team morale. The next time you see someone who looks as though they may be struggling, don’t walk away, or judge them for their lack of productivity, instead ask them, “Are