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Mental Health

View Peter Black's profile on LinkedIn      E: peter.black@peterblackcoaching.com   M: 0419 510 955  T: @PeterBlackCoach

The prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace (anxiety, depression etc)  is far more common than what has been traditionally acknowledged.  Fortunately, through the combined efforts of governments, business groups and dedicated not for profit organisations like Beyond Blue and The Black Dog Institute, this issue is gaining the necessary focus for the benefit of individuals, employers and the community at large. Furthermore, the Australian Government's Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative provides support and funding for the professional services of psychologists through Medicare.  I direct readers to and gratefully acknowledge the resources provided by the organisations noted at the links on this page.

I have recorded an interview
(7m 25s) on "Managing Mental Health in the Workplace" with Heather Dawson of Business Essentials, including some practical techniques and practices that employers can adopt, and this can be heard  here (Copyright 2015: Business Essentials Pty Ltd ABN 73 658 681 585).  This interview was also published by Chartered Accountants ANZ as part of their Business in Focus series. My reason for undertaking this interview is that in my business and executive coaching, clients are sharing more issues of a mental health nature, either personally, for significant others or for employees, colleagues, etc, and whilst I am not a trained counsellor nor psychologist, I recognise the importance of these issues being discussed and addressed.  I also ensure referrals to trained resources.

Estimated Prevalence of Mental Health issues in workplace

Per Heads Up estimates:
  • at any given time, 1 in 5 employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition
  • untreated depression results in over 6 million working days lost each year in Australia and an estimated 12 million days of reduced productivity
  • 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. These conditions tend to affect individuals during their prime working years
  • For small professional services firms, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people working there may experience a mental health issue in any year
Estimated Costs and Potential ROI of addressing Mental Health Issues

The May 2014 PwC/Beyond Blue report quantified the implications of mental health in the Australian workplace and some interesting, and concerning statistics, were:

  • Mental health issues cost approximately $11b pa largely due to absenteeism, presenteeism,  reduced productivity and some workers compensation claims.
  • Two really interesting insights in this number though are that the largest component of costs of about 60% is attributed to presenteeism i.e employees present at work when they really shouldn’t be whilst the smallest component of about 1.5% is the workers compensation claims
  • The good news though is that every $1 businesses invest in mental health returns an average of $2.30 - but with some sectors like small essential service providers and small mining businesses obtaining a return of up to 15 times.

Practical things employers can do to proactively and positively manage mental health?
  • Firstly, make it a priority to adopt a  total wellbeing approach to the workplace - and this may be to educate employees as well as business owners about the importance of the basics of nutrition, exercise, sleep, positive relationships and work/life balance
  • Ensure an alignment of the personality and behavioural preferences of an individual with the needs of a role - and I suggest the use of appropriate psychometric instruments like the Hogan Assessments as a recruitment, self awareness and development tool
  • Encourage good induction and onboarding processes
  • Facilitate company wide strategies around good time management and meetings protocols
  • Review how technology applications are used and implement specialised training, particularly around email management and new social media applications.
  • Reinstate more MBWA (management by walking around) and personal interactions to check in with people.  
  • Facilitate more 1:1 meetings and smaller group sizes - coach, mentor, develop all employees
  • Ensure that best practice change management processes are adopted for normal business events such as organisational restructures, office relocations, acquisitions, divestments, gain or loss of significant clients, customers, technological changes etc
  • Be focused on connecting with remote workers, FIFO workers, workers on client sites and employees working from home
  • Enhance understanding of mental health issues through actively promoting the materials and resources available through The Black Dog Institute , Beyond Blue, Heads Up etc and also actively promote internal Employee Assistance Programs
  • Consider the use of an external coaches to provide independent development support
How I work with employers on mental health issues?