Psychological injury is now on the radar for business as they broaden their view on managing workplace safety. Managing and measuring mental health in the workplace is a complex area and is of increasing concern among employers in terms of the role of business.
Stress, anxiety, depression and drug use are recognised as the most common mental health disorders (Australian Bureau of Statistics, March, 2016; World Health Organisation, 2014). These disorders are negatively affected by high job demand, burnout, a lack of job resources and personal health issues exacerbated by stress and anxiety at while at work.
Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, burnout, alcohol and drug related behaviours reduce well-being and result in lost productivity through absenteeism, presenteeism and low work engagement (Grawitch, et al, 2017). The loss of productivity and high cost of rehabilitation (13.3 weeks off work and $22,200 average costs per claim) has seen organisations seeking increased mechanisms within their well-being programmes.
Here are five ways that business can better manage workplace mental health:
The majority of businesses (66%) fail to measure the impact of staff mental health issues on their organisations. For those that do, absenteeism has the biggest impact on their organisations. Only 2% measure the financial impact of mental health issues at their workplace.
Data is the key to improved support for employees. Predictive data on staff mental health decline helps business in managing and measuring mental health to develop tailored well-being programs with support mechanisms tailored to their specific environment and staff needs. Without this data business is simply guessing!
2. Create a healthy environment
Today through mobile devices we are connected 24/7. But it’s important for employers to take a look at the expectations that they have of their staff. Expecting employees to respond to work-related email from home, work hours beyond a reasonable working week, or take work home to complete after hours, are just a few examples that can increase workplace stress.
3. Help employees to recognise the early signs
Recent numbers indicate that 20% of employees are experiencing a mental health issue at any given time. However, many are unaware that they may be undertaking practices that impact on their mental health and well-being. They are unsure of the early signs and symptoms of early mental health decline. Education is the key here.
The Minter Ellison study found that there is a need for increased training and involvement by managers and executive teams in the management of staff mental health issues with half of participants expressing a need for additional skills and knowledge to proactively identify and manage staff mental health issues.
4. Encourage help-seeking and provide support
Research is showing that many employees are afraid to speak up about mental health issues because they fear they may lose their job or be treated differently. The Konekt Market Report 2016 analysed 156,000 Australian workers compensation cases on workplace injuries over the past 8 years. What they found is that the prevailing job insecurity plaguing our economy has discouraged timely reporting of workplace injuries. Up to 50% of employees suffering from mental health decline wait up to 6 months before they report a problem.
A delay in reporting mental health issues often results in a more serious stress claim with longer recovery periods. Currently, mental health stress claims require an average of 14.8 weeks rehabilitation time at a cost of $82,000 in workers compensation alone. Estimates of $250,000 per claim are argued when we include additional costs such as the cost to the economy, community, family and individual.
Stigma is the number one reason for people’s reluctance to seek help. Business need to develop a supportive culture and recognise that mental health decline doesn’t have to result in a permanent disability. Encouraging help-seeking is a step forward in developing a mentally healthy workplace.
5. Mobile Solutions
Mobile health applications are becoming widely used by individuals accessed via smart and wearable devices. Portability and convenience have made these devices and health and fitness applications popular tools for recording and tracking personal health goals. Mobile applications for behavioural mental health interventions have been shown to be useful tools to decrease levels of depression and reduce stress, but two studies on managing stress and alcohol provided conflicting results (Payne, et al, 2015). There is a need for further research into behavioural interventions using online tools to determine their efficacy.
Young women are particularly active on social media platforms. The use of mobile devices places Australia as a world consumer with 87% connected. Mobile has more impact on consumer actions than television as demonstrated by the 2015 Brand Building on Mobile Survey conducted by Google and Ipsos. So how can business use social media and software to address anxiety in the workplace?
Business can start by using social media and software to push the message. This is the way people, especially young people, are accessing information. Simply stating that young women should reduce their connectivity isn’t going to solve the problem. Workplaces could introduce software that is delivered via mobile devices to provide information on signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and encourage staff to seek help early. Software could provide business with data that shows groups of staff with increased symptoms so that they can tailor their well-being programmes to target these groups.
It’s not all bad news! Mental health can be managed and psychological injuries reduced if business are guided where to look and what to do.