Statistics indicate that as many as a quarter of Australian workers take time off each year due to stress. 75% of employees believe that the workplace should support mental health. Aside from the distress of employees, companies lose more than 6.5 billion dollars every year due to mental health-related illnesses. With the pressures facing most people such as rising costs, the pandemic and general life experiences exacerbating mental health challenges, mental wellness in the workplace is more important than ever.

Are organisations doing enough to support the mental health of their employees?

Mental wellness in the workplace

Most organisations schedule one-off programmes or workshops on mindfulness, etc., and feel that they have fulfilled their duty with regard to mental health. Instead, corporations should consider integrating mental wellness programs as part of their operating model. Doing so means combining mental health research, deep changes in support and work methods, and a value-first perspective.

However, for long-term results, it’s important to have reliable policies and governance frameworks in place. Destigmatising and normalising mental health issues will encourage employees to have honest conversations about their problems.

Workplace-related risk factors for health

Most risks are related to the type of work, the managerial and organisational environment, the competencies and skills of employees (inadequate skilling often results in stress), and support for employees. Some common risk factors for employees are listed below:

  • Poor communication and management practices
  • Inadequate health and support policies
  • Low control over one’s work
  • Limited participation in decision-making
  • Poor support for employees
  • Lack of clarity regarding tasks or expectations.

Mental health risks may also be related to job content, such as high or unrelenting workloads, psychosocial hazards, harassment, bullying, and lack of team cohesion. These risks can result in high productivity costs, absenteeism, high employee turnover, and job abandonment.

Studies indicate that Australian workers miss roughly 10 to 12 days of work annually due to mental health issues, and that incidents of job burnout and workplace violence are increasing. Poor mental health also impacts employee resilience, and employees find it difficult to tackle challenges.

Many employers encourage more than a standard 38-hour work week and discourage employees from taking earned annual leave time. (This is not explicitly stated but subtly implied.) Poor work norms interfere with achieving a healthy work–life balance and often lead to frustration, discouragement and unhappiness.

Employers must implement ongoing, accessible, and relevant measures that help boost mental health and address related issues.

Creating corporate wellness programs

Senior management should ensure that the culture and work practices are able to support employees’ mental health. It’s also important for employers to assure employees of their commitment to their physical and mental health. Other initiatives could include the following:

  • Increasing awareness and knowledge of mental health problems and behaviours
  • Encouraging employee participation in mental health initiatives and wellness programs
  • Conducting regular risk assessments (e.g., psychosocial hazard audits) and implement preventative steps to address stressors
  • Monitoring the impact of the initiatives and programs
  • Building individual and organisational resilience through, for example, training and development and webinars
  • Facilitating access to mental health support ( e.g., employee assistance programs, peer support programs)
  • Discouraging internal and external meetings during lunch breaks or leave periods.

Community building within the organisation, flexible work hours, telecommuting options and workload balancing can go a long way to mitigating isolation and stress.

The role of empathy in supporting mental health

employees feel heard and understood. It’s equally important to demonstrate empathy towards yourself, too – this shows the importance of setting boundaries and prioritising mental health.


Flexible work environments help employees strike a healthy work–life balance, navigate life’s demands, and avoid overload. Flexibility comes not only in the form of adjusted hours but also in many other ways. For example, you could consider limiting meeting times to 20 or 30 minutes, or allocate one day of the week for no meetings at all. Similarly, you could establish yoga, meditation, or social club functions. You could develop formal peer support programs and ensure that they are resourced through training and ongoing development to ensure longevity, and offer expanded employee assistance programs (EAPs) to include family members as well. Implementing these strategies will go a long way towards decreasing employee attrition, improving health, and enhancing loyalty.

Our specially tailored interventions at ESN include risk assessment for psychosocial hazards, (including mental health and wellbeing training and webinar series), peer support training and products, and strategies to overcome role conflicts, poor job design, work fatigue, among many other risk factors. Please get in touch with us to discuss how we can meet your organisational needs.

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