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Here’s why you can’t ignore workplace mental health issues

by CBHS Corporate Health | Sep 19, 2019
Lead by example

We place a lot of importance on being safe at work physically. Safety equipment is available, designated people are trained in first aid, and we generally complete training modules around how to identify hazards around the workplace and avoid them. Not only do we want people to go home safe each night to their families, but we know how compensation claims can adversely impact the bottom line. Does your workplace place as much importance on keeping your people mentally healthy?

How can mental health issues impact on my workplace?

When employees are struggling with poor mental health, it not only impacts them but your organisation too. For example, an employee with severe depression takes 20 times more sick days per month than a mentally healthy worker.

Aside from absenteeism, people struggling within the workplace might also display:

  • reduction in work productivity and/or output
  • poor decision-making
  • poor time management
  • an increase in accidents and/or errors
  • low motivation
  • a deterioration in relationships − with other colleagues, customers and clients.

When mental health conditions proceed to workers’ compensation claims, they can be more detrimental to a business than other claim types. This is because they’re associated with higher claim costs and more time off work. The average time off needed for a mental health claim between 2010-15 was 15.3 weeks, compared to 5.5 weeks for all claims.

It’s easy to see how the above can negatively impact on precious profits. Australian businesses have proven it’s also possible to move the needle the other way. A report by PwC shows that investing in programs which effectively create and maintain a mentally healthy workplace has an average return on investment of $2.30 for every $1 invested. Some industries experienced even greater results, with mining seeing an average of $5.70 for every $1. Heads Up have created a return on investment calculator drawing on this analysis to estimate what your own organisation may be able to achieve.

The role businesses play

What are your responsibilities in keeping people mentally healthy?

Here’s why you can’t ignore workplace mental health issues

The World Health Organisation advises you to consider first, recognising and accepting that mental health is a legitimate workplace concern. Only then can you begin to develop the right policies and guidelines for its prevention, and support of employees through their mental health challenges.

There are some legal obligations too. Under the harmonised WHS Acts (or equivalent), Australian employers have a duty of care to protect workers from work-related mental health hazards or risks (also known as psychological hazards or risks) . Also, employers must consult with workers on workplace psychological hazards and risks. The penalty for a breach of the harmonised WHS Acts can be heavy in some cases. 

The needs of every workforce will be different, depending on size, industry and staff demographics. Worksafe Queensland has created a toolkit which can help employers and leaders reduce psychological health risks and create mentally healthy workplaces. It follows the four-part framework of ‘Promote. Prevent. Intervene Early and Support Recovery’.

The men in your workforce

Research shows that although women experience mental illnesses at a higher rate, men are more likely to report poor mental health affecting their working lives. Six in ten men also feel like they can’t discuss this with their managers. This means it’s extra important for workplaces to create a culture that encourages men to share their feelings or issues without fear of discrimination or judgment. Men also report they would respond well if organisations supported a healthy work-life balance, the availability of a counselling service/EAP and reduced pressure to work longer hours. Read our recent article expanding on men’s mental health at work for more on why men are feeling the pressure.

Get started or refresh your mental health program

The best mental health initiatives are those that are effectively implemented and become a part of the fabric of your organisation. CBHS Corporate Health can help you assess the health of your workforce now, and work with you to achieve a more mentally healthy future. To find out more, contact us at