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The business case for a mentally healthy workplace

By SuperFriend

Ignoring wellbeing comes at a price. The cost to employers of unhealthy workers can’t be ignored.

Research tells us mental health is either affecting your business right now, or has the capacity to do so. One in six working aged people are living with a mental illness. Beyond that, it’s believed there are more people experiencing mental health challenges ranging from high stress to undiagnosed depression.

If your organisation isn’t incorporating mental health considerations into your strategy, then you’re falling behind, both in workplace culture and the costs you’re adding to your business.

Let’s have a look at what being mentally healthy really means for your business.

You have a legal obligation to do so

Every business has a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This includes both physical and mental health; occupational health and safety involves psychological injury prevention.

As your employees have no obligation to disclose their personal experiences with you, it’s impossible to target workplace mental health efforts to just those affected by mental illness. Instead, a broad approach is needed to ensure your workplace supports and promotes your employees’ wellbeing.

A Safe Work Australia representative explains your goal is to not create or exacerbate any adverse mental health effects: “Businesses can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. Well-designed workplaces and work processes consider the mental health of the workers and use design principles to prevent harm to a worker’s mental health,” the representative said.

Creating a mentally healthy workplace will provide measurable benefits to your business. These include:

  • reducing absenteeism;
  • increasing employee engagement;
  • improving productivity to result in higher financial performance;
  • lowering workers’ compensation claims and insurance premium costs; and
  • increasing motivation, as supportive workplaces inspire employee loyalty

These results are measurable through incident report reviews, workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism and sick leave patterns, staff turnover and complaints. Other possible reviewing methods include employee feedback and work performance and team interaction improvements.

A Safe Work Australia spokesperson: “Mental illness is one of the leading causes of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia.” It’s in these costs you’ll likely notice a strong investment return when you implement mental health initiatives into your business.

Recent research has shown that every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health actions can generate $2.30 in benefits. This is outlined in the PriceWaterhouseCooper report, Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace.

It’s the right thing to do

Last, but definitely not least, creating a mentally healthy workplace is simply the right thing to do. Understand your employees aren’t infallible; they will experience struggles during their time working with you. In addition, work can be helpful to those going through challenges if you have a positive working environment.
“Good work can support and encourage participation for people with non-work related mental health conditions and can help to improve their mental health,” explains a Safe Work Australia spokesperson.

Where to start?

Many businesses find mental health challenging to deal with. There are two strong ways you can help break down the stigma surrounding mental health at work:

  • Conduct a workplace, work systems and processes risk assessment (similar to your physical risk assessment process). “The assessment should specifically look for hazards and risks that can impact on mental health. For example, factors such as workload and levels of job control and autonomy should be examined,” says a Safe Work Australia spokesperson.
  • Another good place to start is with a reputable workplace program that will help you implement positive, effective, evidence-based change. “Look at all the stressors in the workplace and start building an organisation that’s mitigating those stressors, and that means incorporating it into your risk management strategy,” says SuperFriend’s Deborah Kennedy.


By SuperFriend

The views of the author and those who provided the responses to the comments  posted on the Knowledge Centre are not necessarily the views of the Sunsuper Board. While Sunsuper attempts to make a wide range of information available via the Knowledge Centre it may not cover all the options available to you. We’ve put this information together as general information only and as such it doesn’t take into account your personal financial objectives, situation or needs.  You should get professional advice before relying on this information. 
Some articles may contain resources and tools to promote awareness and education about mental health and wellbeing related issues. Sunsuper is not a health or crisis service, nor does it provide clinical advice or professional services. The information provided on or through these articles is therefore intended for educational and information purposes only. It cannot take the place of any professional medical help, diagnosis or treatment. If you are in crisis, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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