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Building a mentally healthy workplace

By Jillian Stewart
Published in Blog
March 23, 2022
2 min read
Building a mentally healthy workplace

Mental health, just like physical health, is a resource that exists in each one of us. Not giving it the care and attention it deserves means a greater likelihood of injury, illness and suffering. Looking after it enables us to work, live and interact with others to our full potential.

Mental wellbeing doesn’t just impact individuals. It impacts families, communities and workplaces. The way an employee thinks and feels has a direct impact on everything from productivity to communication.

Poor mental (and physical) health in a workplace leads to increased absenteeism—when people are off sick—and increased presenteeism— when people are at work but not engaged. Both absenteeism and presenteeism come with direct, and considerable, costs to business. Businesses that prioritise mental health think of it as an asset rather than a liability. As a result they have better engagement, reduced absenteeism and higher productivity, and their people are happier, healthier and enjoy greater job satisfaction.

So how do you build a mentally healthy workplace? Start by creating a mental health policy.

A mental health policy is not just something for big companies with a fully-fledged HR team and maximum resources. All businesses, regardless of size or industry, have a responsibility to create policies and practices that support the mental health of their people.

Daunted? You are not alone. For most SMBs a mental health policy will be, at best, on the list of nice-to-haves-one-day. However a formal policy, as opposed to some good intentions, is a very important step towards building a flourishing workplace. It will define your vision and objectives, and establish a broad model for action to achieve that vision.

The mental health policy of an SMB is going to be tailored to the company’s unique context. It needs to be flexible and responsive to company growth.

Involve your team. People’s personal experience can be of value in developing a policy that identifies current issues in your workplace and addresses changes you and your team would like to see implemented.

There is no one-size-fits-all policy, but there is a wealth of guidelines for best practice that can be adapted to the challenges in individual organizations.

Know that your policy is not complete but a work in progress. Table enhancements people would like to see incorporated in the policy in the future. Include timeframes and make a concerted effort to stick to them. This means your mental health policy will be a living document that translates into real changes rather than merely paying lip service.

For mental wellbeing programmes, resources and campaigns see:

Workplaces

Mental Health Foundation Australia


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