A Critical Workplace Issue

As well as compelling legal and moral arguments for fostering mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, there are also strong economic and health related reasons. 
A 2014 report for the Australian Government found the evidence below to suggest that mental health and wellbeing needs to be considered a critical workplace issue: 
  • At any one time, one-sixth of the working age population is suffering from symptoms of mental illness, most commonly depression and anxiety

  • A further one-sixth of the population suffers from symptoms associated with mental ill health such as worry, sleep problems and fatigue, which will still be affecting their ability to function at work

  • Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness absence and long term work incapacity in most developed countries

  • Mental illness is linked to high levels of presenteeism, where an employee remains at work despite experiencing symptoms resulting in lower levels of productivity

  • Mental health conditions are costing Australian businesses between $11 and $12 billion dollars each year through absenteeism, reduced work performance, increased turnover rates and compensation claims

  • Much of the mental illness seen in the workplace is treatable and in some cases, preventable

  • Many employers tend to regard individuals with mental health difficulties as being incapable of successful employment which has fuelled the stigmatisation of mental health

  • Workplaces can play an active and significant role in maintaining the mental health of their workers

  • Efforts focused on employees’ mental health should bring benefits both for the individual and for the organisation.

Overwhelming evidence indicates that work is generally good for mental health and wellbeing. In an era in which we are working longer, having to adapt to new technologies and work practices as well as be more publicly accountable for performance, focusing holistically on the health of the workforce is important.
More information about why it makes sense to address mental health and wellbeing at work is available at HeadsUp, which is the website for the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. The Alliance is funded and supported by the Australian Government and includes partners such as Safe Work Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). 
There is further information in a comprehensive guide jointly published by the Australian Public Service Commission and ComCare, called As One - Working Together: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work (PDF. 14,119KB).