Can Your Organisation Afford Not to Invest?
On 10 October, individuals and organisations across the globe recognised World Mental Health Day. Pleasingly, this day is one of many initiatives that are focused on challenging perceptions about mental illness. Due in large part to this awareness, we are seeing increased recognition of the need to protect, promote and support mental health, not only in our personal lives, but also in the workplace.
Supporting mental health is not only a goal of critical importance in the community, it also makes good business sense, with the statistics speaking for themselves. Take a look at just a few of the financial impacts of mental health:
It is estimated that the burden of depression is costing Australian businesses $8 billion per annum in presenteeism and sick leave, which is 220% higher than the rate caused by physical sicknesses.
With so much evidence that poor mental health can take such an enormous toll on both individuals and the organisations they work for, it is clear that a consistent, considered approach is required to ensure employers can work toward creating a mentally well workplace. And while many employers are beginning to consider mental health as a genuine issue that requires addressing, there remains a disconnect between evidence-based approaches and the initiatives being implemented by organisations.
So, what does research recommend when it comes to promoting mental health in the workplace? It all comes down to an integrated approach1.
Truly successful organisations programs will reflect the synergies that can be garnered from:
- Reducing work-related risks to mental health, by considering primary (job demands), secondary (strategies to improve stress responses) and tertiary (treatment) interventions.
- Promoting the positive aspects of work and organisational culture, by proactively rewarding employee capabilities, focusing on strengths, modelling positive leadership practices, ensuring that work is meaningful and that there is a positive organisational culture
- Responding to mental illness, regardless of the cause. This may involve providing psychoeducation to improve mental health literacy, or developing early intervention skills to ensure employees know they can ask for health. This should also involve shifting attitudes and removing stigmas around mental illness, to improve the overall organisational culture.
By taking this integrated approach, organisations can avoid focusing on individual cases in a reactive way, and rather, can look at the organisation as a whole, with a much wider net of support.
While many workplaces are yet to become environments where employees are predominantly healthy, happy and supportive, the promise is becoming less elusive, and the rewards of doing so are clear. By implementing an integrated approach that considers prevention and promotion of positive mental health, and effective, holistic strategies around responding to mental illness – we can begin to move the needle.
1 Workplace mental health: developing an integrated intervention approach, BMC Psychiatry, 14, 131, LaMontagne, AD., Martin A., Page, KM, Reavley NJ., Noblet,AJ., Keegel, T and Smith, PM (2014).