The prevalence of depression and anxiety among Australians is high and often goes unrecognised, despite the substantial labour cost of mental illness in Australia (estimated to be $49 billion).
Supervisors hold a key leadership responsibility in managing and enhancing the welfare and mental health of their staff. Clear guidelines have been made available outlining the role managers should play in sickness absence, regardless of the underlying cause, and research has found that good supervisor support can result in faster recovery for employees and a more rapid return to work. However, managers often report feeling unsure what to do when a staff member is ill, particularly if they are suffering from a mental illness. This is problematic as mental health is increasingly becoming the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace. These problems are amplified in male-dominated industries, which are often characterised by a culture that makes discussing emotions difficult or impossible.
New technologies offer an efficient way to address these challenges by offering flexible, user directed options for managers to develop their skills in this area. Evidence suggests that specialised training for managers to promote understanding of mental health problems among workers can allow managers to feel more confident in discussing mental health matters, however, there has been little research on implementing this type of training online.
The HeadCoach Program
HeadCoach is an online training program that aims to help managers build skills to keep your employees happy and mentally fit, and better manage mental health in the workplace. The program is desktop, tablet and mobile responsive and is designed to fit around managers’ workload and demands, so allows users to complete it at their own pace and when convenient for them across a 6 week time frame.
HeadCoach is currently being trialled to see if it’s any good at helping managers improve their mental health knowledge and skills, and if it improves employees’ feelings of support at work and rates of sickness absence for mental health reasons.
In this current trial researchers will be gathering data about managers’ knowledge and attitudes about common mental health problems, their own symptoms, their understanding of their role as a manager in dealing with mental health in the workplace, their confidence and current practices in managing mental health issues in the workplace, and management styles. This data will be gathered before and after (immediately and 6 months) the trial.
Researchers will also gather data from employees about their levels of well-being and psychological distress, rates of absenteeism and perceived level of social support at work from managerial staff. This will be collected in short questionnaires before and 6 months after the trial.
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