What is a mentally healthy workplace?

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

A recent discussion paper released by the NSW Government as part of its Work Health and Safety Roadmap 2022 promotes the concept of a mentally healthy workplace. This is defined as a workplace which:

• promotes mental health and wellbeing

• develops strategies to reduce the risk of mental ill-health and promote mental resilience among staff

• creates a culture that facilitates early identification of mental illness

• ensures that staff who do develop mental ill-health are supported and receive quality, evidence-based interventions to promote recovery, and

• takes the approach that mental health and wellbeing is everyone’s business, including managers, colleagues and individuals.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires persons conducting a business or undertaking to have a psychologically safe workplace and manage the risks to health and safety. But the concept of a mentally healthy workplace goes beyond this.

So why is this concept important? Increasingly in Australia and elsewhere, best practice requires not just identifying risks but improving overall mental health among employees.

There are a number of reasons for doing this, including:

• Work performance is highest when staff report high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction.

• Research suggests each dollar spent on effective mental health interventions at work returns more than double the investment.

• It may be more effective to look at workplace psychosocial risks as a group, instead of individually, as they overlap and multiply in effect.

• Life events outside work can impact on the level of risk at work.

The discussion paper suggests that an integrated approach is best. This will involve actions at a number of levels, from reducing risks at work (eg. job design, personal resilience) to enhancing the organisation’s positive aspects through leadership and good management and supporting worker recovery.

What this discussion paper shows however is that more research is needed as well as simple tools for employers to benchmark their performance.

You can read more here.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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