It’s a sad fact that mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders, are the second leading cause of disability in Australia.
They affect about 20 percent of the working age population, but few bosses it seems are equipped to deal with the issue.
A recent study found many workers feel their workplaces are “mentally unhealthy” environments.
And as a result, staff are taking more sick days due to depression, anxiety and stress.
Workers surveyed claim mental wellbeing is more neglected than physical safety on the job.
A staggering 48 per cent of respondents said their employers had failed to help them deal with job-related or personal mental health issues.
For several years industry groups and health advocates have been urging employers to treat the mental health of their staff as seriously as physical health and safety.
But such warnings continue to fall on deaf ears.
The cost of work-related mental health problems on workplaces is enormous.
A recent VicHealth-funded study reported that job strain-attributable depression costs the Australian economy A$730 million per year, with much of the cost worn by employers.
An employer’s occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations extend to any workers with mental illness.
For managers, the challenge is in trying to motivate and engage stressed staff, usually with little or no support. In many instances bosses are overloaded and stressed themselves.
For employees, stress can be caused by poor management and workplace practices, excessive workloads or interpersonal conflict.
The end result is usually reduced performance, more downtime for businesses and lost productivity.
While researchers have identified what causes workplace mental health issues, management is still struggling to address those issues.
Recognising and promoting mental health is an essential part of creating a safe and healthy workplace.
Both managers and workers have important roles to play in building a safe work environment – one that will not create or exacerbate mental health problems.
A mentally healthy workplace that protects and promotes mental health and empowers staff to seek help for depression and anxiety, benefits both employers and workers.