Employee participation 

The best strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace are based on a shared commitment between employers and employees. Employees must be engaged in every step, from planning through to implementation and review.

Employees have first-hand experience of mental health risks and protective factors in the workplace, so they're a great source of ideas. They'll also be able to help prioritise what to tackle first and what actions will have the biggest impact. The best change initiatives are informed and underpinned by the needs of employees – without this, they're unlikely to succeed.

Developing and implementing policies

Particularly in larger organisations, policy lays the groundwork for action. It needs to be clearly articulated and flexible enough to meet the needs of the organisation or business.

Relevant policies that need to include mental health include workplace bullying, career development, cultural awareness, discrimination, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), equal opportunity, fitness for work, harassment, health promotion, leave arrangements, people and performance management, recruitment, return to work, and work health and safety (WH&S).

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Communicate outcomes to key decision makers

A sustainable approach

  • Ongoing effort and resources are needed for initial success to become permanent
  • Recognise and incorporate successful actions into ongoing practice
  • Document and communicate outcomes to key decision makers
  • Identify internal champions – people who believe in the goal and will encourage others to change their attitudes and behaviour

Allocating resources 

Creating a mentally healthy workplace doesn't need to cost a lot, but you'll need to think about time and commitment. Even the best ideas are unlikely to get off the ground without dedicated resources.

A good place to start might be allocating time to developing and promoting a mental health policy, or making mental health resources – such as free beyondblue fact sheets and booklets – available to employees. 

Planning checklist

  • Identify your intended goals and objectives, including what you need to make them happen – such as financial resources, time or additional staffing. Small businesses can tap into free information and tools from beyondblue and other organisations.
  • Decide what success will look like, how you'll measure it, and what you'll need to sustain it.
  • Identify the particular risk factors that are most relevant to your business or organisation.
  • Develop mental health policies, or use this as an opportunity to review existing ones.
  • Set benchmarks for mental health as part of your annual strategic planning and budgeting process.
  • Identify short-term outcomes to provide early feedback, as well as longer-term outcomes to measure sustained change.
  • An organisational audit of existing data, policies and practices can be a useful first step in checking the mental health of your workplace.

Do you have enough facts to take action?

In order to develop an action plan, you need to know exactly how mentally healthy your workplace is from the outset – what you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. To help you identify specific risk factors or priority areas of action for your business or organisation, take a look at:

  • feedback from employees – staff surveys and meetings, health and safety committees, individual conversations
  • absenteeism – the amount, duration and ratio of planned versus unplanned leave
  • benefits uptake – the degree to which staff make use of available employee benefits
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) data
  • disability statistics
  • rates of accidents, incidents or injuries
  • workers’ compensation claims.