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An essential guide to creating a mentally healthy workplace

February 12, 2016

There are three broad areas to focus on when developing your strategy for a healthy workplace: raising awareness and reducing stigma; supporting employees with mental health conditions; and promoting a positive working environment.

As a leader, there are many things you can do to create an environment where staff feel safe, happy and productive. But because each business is different, there’s no one-size-fits all approach.

Step 1

One of the first and most important steps is to create awareness and improve understanding of mental health issues, which helps cut down stigma. At any given time about one in five Australians experience a mental health condition – the most common being anxiety and depression.

Communicate your commitment to improving workplace mental health by:

talking openly about mental health in the workplace
providing mental health training for all staff and managers
incorporating mental health into the induction process
making mental health information available via noticeboards, email or workplace intranet
participating in mental health-related events like R U OK? Day, Go Home on Time Day and World Mental Health Day
promoting support services such as Employee Assistance Programs, external helplines and referral services.

Step 2

The second step is identifying and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health conditions. This is a key role for managers, but it’s also important to encourage colleagues to keep an eye out for signs of depression and anxiety – turning up late, withdrawing from colleagues, excessive use of alcohol, problems sleeping and having trouble concentrating. Another idea is to nominate mental health “champions” in the workplace to provide support.

Step 3

The final step to creating a mentally healthy workplace is to promote a positive working environment.

Although some level of stress is a feature of most roles, ongoing or excessive stress is a major factor in triggering anxiety and depression. Employers have a role to play in identifying and taking steps to reduce stress – by managing an employee’s workloads and reevaluating deadlines, for example. Getting out and doing something physical is a great stress-busting activity. You could encourage employees to improve their mental and physical health by offering staff discounts to a local gym or team entries to fun runs, charity walk events or corporate triathlons – all of which help with team building and engagement.

If the idea of a fun run is likely to get your employees chucking a collective sickie, get everyone together for regular events. Depending on your business’s size and schedule, you could put on regular lunches, morning teas, team outings or social occasions. Social events can double as a chance to reward and recognise employee contributions.

Open communication about your plans will ensure everyone comes along on the journey. Permanent messages on noticeboards and posters can help to reinforce the message, but extra information may be incorporated into existing weekly email updates, monthly staff meetings or ad hoc training sessions – how often will depend on your needs.

Get started today

To find out more about your rights and responsibilities in relation to creating a mentally healthy workplace, please call the National Retail Association Hotline on  1800 RETAIL (738 245).

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