Identifying areas to improve mental health in the workplace

Oct 07, 2014

Starting your individually-tailored Heads Up Action Plan is a major step forward in transforming your business into one which offers a mentally healthy work environment.

After evaluating and assessing existing workplace practices, there is then a need to identify priority areas of action. Critical to this is the need to consider what you want to address through your Action Plan. (Visit Heads Up to start your own Action Plan)

There are, of course, several issues that are relevant to workplaces across all industries and business sizes.

Businesses need to raise awareness of mental health conditions - both signs and symptoms - roles and responsibilities of workers, the benefits of creating a mentally healthy workplace and what measures a business can take to achieve this. Businesses can pursue several initiatives to raise awareness, including:

  • Talking openly about mental health in the workplace.
  • Providing mental health training for all staff.
  • Incorporating mental health into the induction process, as well as training for managers and supervisors.
  • Making mental health information available to employees.
  • Taking part in mental health-related events such as R U OK? Day, Go Home on Time Day and World Mental Health Day.
  • Promoting support services such as Employee Assistance Programs, external helplines and referral services.

It’s also important for businesses to reduce the stigma around mental health, so that individuals are not viewed negatively because of a particular characteristic or condition, such as anxiety or depression. Stigma is also a barrier to people talking about their conditions, and seeking support and treatment. This stigma, along with preconceived ideas and stereotypes, can be broken down by bringing people into contact with those recovering from anxiety and depression.

Supporting individuals with mental health conditions is also crucial. In order to do this, business leaders and managers require the skills and confidence to approach an employee they may have concerns about, and then provide ongoing support.

Business leaders and managers can also build the skills and resilience of individuals by encouraging them to develop their knowledge and skills across a broad range of areas. This could include building their confidence in their specified tasks, or even much broader universal skills such as communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, negotiation, mental health awareness, or workplace ethics and legislation.

It’s also important that they facilitate access to psychological support services. By building a connection with psychological services there are benefits not only for the employee, but also for the overall business, as leaders can seek advice and support to develop a mentally health workplace. Providing access to these services demonstrates a business’ commitment to safeguarding the mental health of their employees.

Another area of focus for business leaders and managers is strengthening their ability to promote a safe and respectful workplace culture, which helps ensure their employees are better prepared to manage conflict and actively support each other. Through this, employees also feel supported and valued.

It’s also important that leaders and managers develop personal leadership skills, which could include communication, strategic planning, people development and change management. Managers and leaders should also consider the way job roles are structured and communicated within the business, and assess whether they match the capabilities of the employees, and whether the roles can be adjusted to suit employee needs along with those of the business.

The development of policies and then implementing them is also a key requirement, as it lays the groundwork for action and determines the direction and focus of the business. In terms of mental health, important and relevant policies include:

  • Workplace bullying and harassment.
  • Cultural awareness.
  • Discrimination.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Equal opportunity.
  • Leave arrangements.
  • People and performance management.
  • Recruitment.
  • Return to work policies.
  • Work health and safety.

Practical guidance on decreasing job stress is also needed in any plan to improve workplace mental health. This can be done through addressing the relevant risk factors for job stress that exist in the workplace.

 

Create better workplace mental health: register with Heads Up

Strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace can be developed by going to headsup.org.au where you can also prepare a tailored Heads Up Action Plan for your business. 

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