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Mental Health Audit: how mentally healthy is your workplace?

Mental health in the workplace is fast becoming an important issue for managers and supervisors, and can be a challenging  topic to manage. In Australia, it is estimated that one in five employees will be suffering from some form of mental health issue, which is often associated with high personal and economic costs; in fact, it is one of the main reasons for reduced work performance, absenteeism and presenteeism. Poor mental health in the workplace is too significant to ignore.

Consider these questions to determine how mentally healthy your workplace really is:

Does you workplace:

    1. Have a detailed, promoted and enforced Mental Health Policy in place?
    2. Have senior managers who are actively involved in mental health promotion, encouraging a good level of workplace communication around psychological health and safety promotion?
    3. Include mental health resources and educational materials in the staff recruitment and induction process?
    4. Provide mental health education and first aid training to employees to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce stigma and better overall mental health?
    5. Support and promote mental health related events such as R U OK? Day, Mental Health Awareness Month?
    6. Encourage flexibility such as: flexible start/finish times, flexible days, rostered days off, work-from-home, or job sharing)?
    7. Encourage employee participation in decision making and problem solving?
    8. Have and enforce anti-bullying policies which are specific, and detail guidelines for managers on their role in countering bullying?
    9. Effectively and inclusively explain workplace changes and/or restructures to employees, encouraging feedback and comments, in order to mitigate negative effects on wellbeing?
    10. Offer coaching and mentoring sessions and development opportunities, to employees looking to grow themselves and their career?
    11. Encourage physical activity throughout the working day as well as outside of hours?
    12. Promote reward structures?
    13. Conduct regular wellbeing checks to identify symptoms of poor mental health and facilitate early treatment?
    14. Provide and promote Employee Assistance Programs and/or workplace counselling services?
    15. Offer resilience programs such as stress training or cognitive behavioural interventions to help employees better manage work-related stress and challenges?
    16. Provide supervisors and managers with mental health training, tools and resources to assist in employee recovery and mental health management?
    17. Provide alternate duties or partial sick leave to support employees struggling with mental illness?
    18. Provide comprehensive Return to Work programs based on cognitive behavioural therapy, customised according to individual needs?
    19. Regularly conduct employee satisfaction surveys and make changes based on feedback and recommendations?
    20. Have a high rate of employees taking excessive sick days?
    21. Have a history of psychological injury claims?
    22. Have a history of high staff turnover?

How did your workplace do? If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions (with the exception of questions 20, 21, 22), congratulations it is highly likely that you’re providing employees with a mentally healthy work environment. If you found yourself frequently responding with ‘no’, or if you answered ‘yes’ to questions 20, 21 and 22, then take some of these points on board to implement healthy changes, a positive attitude and approach towards a mentally healthy workplace. Or to have a mental health professional conduct a thorough workplace assessment, and provide you with the best advice and proven mental health strategies and training seminars, contact Work Options.

Related reading:
Steps to preventing psychological injuries in the workplace
An Employee Assistance Program story
A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health

 

A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health

Responsibilities at work may not always be the sole cause for poor metal health, but for some people, workload and stress can be a significant contributor. In Australia employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees are safe at work, both physically and psychologically, and can confidently perform their job without any adverse affects. So what happens when you suspect an employee is struggling mentally, and how do you approach it? Here are some steps to follow:

1.       Arrange a confidential meeting
Ensure that you arrange a confidential meeting, in an environment away from prying eyes where the person can feel comfortable. Be professional when scheduling so that you don’t further contribute to stress or anxiety.

2.       Be familiar with your workplace mental health resources
Be well versed in any company policies around mental health and resources available such as Employee Assistance Programs. Have hand-outs printed and sealed in a folder for the employee to take with them.

3.       Adopt an honest, upfront and caring approach
Start off by providing encouragement and pointing out the employees strengths and contributions that they bring to the business – it is important that they feel valued. Consider the conversation to be somewhat of a performance review where the positives are discussed first followed by concerns. Be clear in stating why you are concerned.

Be aware that your employee may not realise the impact their mental state is having on their work, feel as though their personal issues are not your concern, or alternatively they may think that everything is just fine. Be prepared to be dismissed. But if your employee is willing to open up, be supportive.

Consider asking open ended questions where the employee is able to steer the conversation in a direction they are comfortable. Ensure that you listen openly and provide encouragement. Don’t push for information which is outside of the scope of work related issues – it is not your business.

4.       Act!
It is important that you focus on solutions, not problems, and how you can help the employee in a business sense – remember that you’re not in their shoes, even if you think you have been before. Ensure that you document everything being said and consider ways of temporarily altering their job role and responsibilities to reduce pressure and workload. Offer your collected mental health resources and details about what’s included in the pack.

5.       Schedule a follow-up meeting
Don’t forget that you have a duty of care to ensure your employees are happy at work. Once the employee has had some time to digest the conversation, potentially seek help and you’ve altered their work responsibilities, check back in. If the employee’s mental state has not improved, or gotten worse, consider offering them the support of an Employee Assistance Program. Again consider their workload and responsibilities, and refer them to free phone and online resources, as well as community service providers such as doctors, psychologists and counsellors. And once again, after some time, repeat the process.

 

Talking to employees about mental health may seem a daunting process, but it’s the first step in taking positive strides to ensuring happy, healthy and efficient employees. And when you make mental health and wellbeing a priority in your workplace, your employees will thank you for it.

For further reading and free mental health resources, see:
Black Dog Institute: Workplace Mental Health Toolkit
Beyond Blue: Workplace Mental Health
Headspace
Lifeline – Phone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – Phone: 1300 22 4636