You can manage mental health in your workplace just as you do any other hazard.
The cost of poor mental health
Poor psychological safety costs Australian business $6 billion each year in lost productivity. This is because work-related mental health conditions (such as stress) typically require 3 times more time off work than other injuries.
The causes of mental health injuries
Mental health injuries can be caused by:
- excessive time pressures, unreasonable deadlines
- poorly managed organisational change and support
- conflict between people, harassment and bullying
- exposure to occupational violence and aggression.
- 90% of serious work-related mental health condition claims are due to work-related mental stress
- work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying and work pressure are the most significant causes of work-related mental health issues. Together, they account for over 60% of serious mental health claims in Tasmania
- each mental health injury claim results in an incapacity of over 60 days absence from work.
In Tasmania, health care and social assistance workers reported the most mental health injuries in 2018. Nationally, the occupations most at risk are defence force members, fire fighters and police, followed by school teachers.
If you’re a person conducting a business or undertaking, you have a duty to ensure the health and safety of your workers, and this includes their mental health and safety.
You can prevent work contributing to workers becoming ill by taking preventative action and intervening early.
Just as you do with a physical hazard, you should:
- identify what could cause mental harm in your workplace and assess how severe the risks are
- take steps to eliminate and control these risks.
Identify and assess
- Talk to workers. They know what causes them mental harm — and most likely have ideas about how to most effectively address the dangers to their mental health.
- Review incident reports, absenteeism, requests for transfers or resignations.
- Look at workplace factors. These can include schedules, demands and deadlines, job security, technological or organisation change, resourcing. Leadership styles can also contribute to stress.
- Look for early warning signs such as uncharacteristic behaviour, and workplace conflict.
- Consider any vulnerable workers: for example, someone who has contact with the public, with little control over their work, or whose skills don’t match the job they’re doing.
- Review and address the workplace factors you identify in your workplace.
- Provide training to help workers better cope with work or changing technologies.
- Provide training to your managers so they take a less demanding, more positive and supportive approach to managing their workers.
- Consider a workplace wellbeing program to help maintain their personal health and to address stress and resilience.
Resource: People at Work
Creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s job. And now, more than ever, we need to be aware of our own mental health and to look out for signs of distress among those we work with.
The new, free People at Work digital tool (external link) is dedicated to helping employers create mentally healthy workplaces and meet their responsibility under work health and safety laws to identify and manage psychosocial risks in their workplace.
Workplaces have a duty to protect the psychological health of workers in the same way they protect their physical safety.
People at Work is free for Tasmanian businesses to help you identify, assess and manage work-related psychosocial hazards and factors. Importantly, it doesn’t need an expert to interpret the psychosocial risk assessment results.
As an employer, you can send a clear message to your workers that you value their mental health and wellbeing. You can also reap the benefits of reduced workers’ compensation claims and improved worker productivity, satisfaction and engagement.
The hazards measured by the People at Work survey are based on decades of research highlighting the factors that influence a worker’s psychological health and safety. The psychosocial hazards are also based on guidance from Safe Work Australia.
The online platform lays out an easy to follow five-step process with resources, interactive learning modules, a self-administered survey, and automated custom reports. It enables you to:
- self-administer the People at Work survey to your workers (please note you must have at least 20 people to complete the survey. However, if you are a small business with less than 20 people, you can still use the other online resources)
- add custom demographics like workgroups and roles
- receive automated reporting with key breakdowns to identify high risk areas, with recommended control measures, benchmarking, and guidance.
Australian work health and safety regulators have jointly funded People at Work to provide free tools and resources. Funding partners are WorkSafe Tasmania and the WorkCover Tasmania Board, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, SafeWork NSW, WorkSafe Victoria, Comcare, Safe Work Australia, SafeWork SA, NT WorkSafe, WorkSafe ACT and WorkSafe WA.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s job. And now, more than ever, we need to be aware of our own mental health and look out for signs of distress in those we work with.
Head4Work is an online training tool that will help workers, supervisors and managers know how they can reduce workplace mental health risks and support themselves and their co-workers when concerns about mental health arise. It is suitable for small businesses (20 or fewer workers).
It is simple to use and requires no prior knowledge of workplace mental health. It will quickly identify the skills and knowledge you need, and has over 40 short videos and checklists to help your learning.
Head4Work can be done anytime and on any device, including your mobile phone. Available 24/7, it’s a great workplace mental health information resource to have on hand all year round. Head4Work has 3 easy steps to improving workplace mental health:
- Step 1: Know what you don’t know. By completing the interactive quizzes you will identify any skills or knowledge gaps you might have about workplace mental health.
- Step 2: Personalised learning. The program can then point you to its extensive range of videos, checklists and links specific to what you need to know.
- Step 3: Resit only the questions you missed. After getting feedback about any questions you may have answered incorrectly, you will have the opportunity to test your knowledge of these areas again.
You can even use Head4Work to get a snapshot of your workplace’s risk profile. By getting your workers to complete the online survey, you can access a report that provides a detailed understanding of where critical shortfalls in workplace mental health safety may exist within your organisation. This data provides you with a tailored evidence based approach to identifying and addressing workplace mental health risks.
The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through a grant from the WorkCover Tasmania Board, is providing Tasmanian businesses with free access to Head4Work.
Learn more about Head4Work (external link).
If you’re experiencing work-related mental harm
- Tell your manager. If you know what is causing it, ask to work together to address this.
- Talk to others in your workplace for support, such as your health and safety representative or union representative.
- Talk to others outside work for support: family and friends, your doctor, or a professional counsellor.
- Maintain your personal health as best you can. Exercise regularly, eat healthily, get good sleep, and try not to rely on caffeine, drugs or alcohol to cope. Remember to do the things you enjoy. It may sound obvious or flippant, but these actions you can take to look after yourself should not be underestimated.
2019 Safety is Everything campaign
In mid-2019 the Safety is Everything campaign was launched as an initiative of the WorkCover Tasmania Board and WorkSafe Tasmania. The campaign contributed to:
- promoting awareness of mental health hazards in the workplace
- de-stigmatising mental health conditions in the workplace
- improving mental health awareness within the Tasmanian community.
There were three different TV advertisements (supported by print versions), focussing on a mental health scenario in different industries: financial and insurance services, public administration, and health care and social assistance. These industries are where mental stress is a common cause of injury and where mental conditions are a priority condition and cause, as identified in WorkSafe Tasmania’s Strategic Plan 2018-2023 (PDF, 1.3 MB).
WorkSafe Tasmania resources
Emotional support resources in the event of an incident: If you, your workers or their families have witnessed, been involved in or been affected by a workplace incident, please see our resources.
Mental health awareness campaign poster (PDF, 244.7 KB) (request an A3 printed copy by contacting us)