Studies have shown that one in six employees suffer from mental health issues at any one time.


While there has been much progress in highlighting the many stigmas surrounding mental health, there is still a lot of work to be done in the workplace. 


Many employers continue to view mental health issues as 'staff personal problems', effectively dismissing the case as a management responsibility.


In addition to its effect on your company culture, it also directly affects your bottom-line. 


According to several studies, the Australian economy’s mental health cost is roughly $12b a year due to absenteeism, performance issues, turnover, and compensation claims.


For employers, they must tackle the problem head-on and implement resources to help their staff. 


Here are four ways you can better improve mental health in the workplace. 


1. Make It An Open Topic

After a very turbulent year, the mental health of most is very fragile. An excellent business goal to set for 2021 is to make mental health an open topic in your workplace.


You can do this by creating an environment where employees feel safe to speak up if they or a colleague is struggling. 


Beyond creating a safe space for employees to talk about what they’re going through, it’s essential to make them aware that they understand mental health and care about everyone in the organisation.


Beyond Blue has a range of flyers and brochures around the office to help educate employees and keep mental health top of mind.


2. Respectful and Trusting Work Culture

Healthy company culture will go a long way to assist in managing mental health issues amongst employees. 


A work culture that ensures mutual respect, trust and transparency from the top down will reduce struggling employees' stress.


By creating this culture, you can ensure work is a place they look forward to attending and focus on something positive. 


3. Work-Life Balance

The reality is, life for all of us is busier than ever.


We are all trying to squeeze more and more into our personal and work life, which can best lead to burnout, and worse, can amplify mental health issues that are brewing beneath the surface. While work-life balance rests with both the employee and employers, employers can things do to help?

 

These things include ensuring respecting employee personal time whenever possible, ensuring they have enough time off to recharge and that long shifts are kept to a minimum.


4. Check In

One of the best public initiatives for mental health is “R U OK” which states its goal: “To inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling with life." 


If managers notice employees that are not themselves, a great start is to ask, “Are you ok?" 


Whilst in the chaos of running a business, taking the time to notice small changes in your employees’ moods can be a challenge, but it’s time worth spent. 


A two-minute conversation to check in with an employee sends a powerful message to all staff that the company genuinely cares about their wellbeing. Not only will this reduce the impacts of mental health challenges, but it will create a loyal and dedicated team.


5. Train Your Managers

There is no point in the boss being focussed and skilled in addressing mental health issues if the managers are ignorant on the topic. 


It's vital that mental health management strategies come from the top down, and managers and supervisors are also trained in the techniques above. 


Most of the time, managers are likely to be the ones on the front line dealing with issues as they appear day-to-day.


Mental health is a fact of life. We are all likely to face challenges in this area at some point in our lives.


Leaders who embrace this challenge and implement robust strategies will minimise their business impact and produce an even more motivated and loyal team.


For more on mental health in the workplace, this is a great additional resource: Workplace Mental Health