In a recent report published by the Network of Workplace Health Promotion (NWHP), it’s been identified that more companies are beginning to realise the impact mental health has on the crucial success of any business.
In an Australian business case, Beyond Blue revealed one in five Australian employees report they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months.
“It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year,” a spokesperson shared.
“This compromises $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims.”
However, there are factors contributing to poor mental health, hidden away in processes, procedures and practices across Australian workplaces.
According to a range of sources, including Heads Up (an initiative of Beyond Blue) and the NWHP, here are six hidden practices in workplaces that by shining a light on, can be tweaked to optimise wellbeing.
Is everyone in your workplace walking around with an unnecessary sense of urgency and pressure that isn’t actually helpful? Although the Yerkes-Dodson Law tells us a certain level of stress and arousal can actually promote performance, too much lowers performance.
“Less stress can enhance the working conditions,” states the NWHP.
“In relation to mental health problems, interventions that focus solely on changing individual behaviour are not particularly effective either for employees or for companies. They need to be supplemented with organisational measures addressing the potential sources of stress in the working environment.”
Sometimes it’s not what we do but how we do it, that influences stress levels and mental wellbeing.
Imagine having a project you know exactly how to execute — based on your experience and past ways of working — only to be told to complete it in a certain way, that goes against your ability, and within a timeframe that isn’t realistic.
“It’s important to reorganise poor working processes in a way that suits individuals, and maximises their ability to complete a task,” says the NWHP.
“Optimising working processes (eg. by job enlargement, job rotation, flexi-time) and restructuring tasks to lessen pressure (eg. creating clerical jobs to relieve skilled personnel from administrative tasks) can motivate employees in the long term.
“These measures serve at the same time to promote the mental wellbeing of employees.”
Employees should be empowered to have a certain amount of autonomy in organising their own work.
Freedom to organise their own working day and to carry out tasks under their own initiative, is an important health resource to employees.
“Setting out target agreements in place of detailed specifications on processes would be a practical measure to start with,” the NWHP suggests.
How is your organistion or business structured? Is the heavy lifting and big decision making left to a board or senior leadership? Are employees entitled to have a say in how decisions are made or provided any form of visibility?
When staff feel like they are left out of important decisions, or left in the dark with no communication on various changes that impact them, it can leave them feeling disempowered and lacking control over their work environment.
“Employees should be involved in relevant decision making processes whether by surveys, focus groups, in forums or workshops,” says the NWHP.
“This is a central prerequisite for maintaining a mentally healthy workforce.”
There is also a strong correlation between an effort and reward imbalance and negative impact on mental health.
When staff feel like they are putting in large amounts of effort with no sense of recognition or reward, it can leave them feeling powerless or without purpose.
“Within reason, employers can take steps to minimise this, for example by paying above award wages, regularly celebrating wins or milestones, and acknowledging a job well done.”
It is important to be clear about what employees can expect from the organisation and what duties and tasks are expected of the employee.
“If employees feel their employer has failed to deliver what has been promised it can result in reduced motivation, commitment and performance,” states the NWHP.
If an employee is unsure of their role, or it isn’t clearly defined, it can leave them lacking direction, purpose or meaning.
Not only does your productivity as a business suffer, but also puts the employee at risk of developing a lack of engagement and poor mental wellbeing.
Want some step-by-step guides to promote positive mental health in your workplace? You can download our free mental health toolkit below.
A comprehensive selection of guides, checklists and tools you can use as a manager or business owner to:
✔ Support optimum wellbeing during challenging times
✔ Quickly identify the warning signs of poor mental health in your team
✔ Empower team members to develop their own self-care plans
✔ Guide and encourage team members to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing, with interactive exercises based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) methods