How to create a mentally health workplace

How to create a mentally health workplace

Have you ever taken a “mental health” day at work? According to Heads Up, the equivalent of 1.1 million sick days are taken each year for mental health reasons, costing Australian businesses up to $6.1B. 

 It’s no surprise that businesses are now investing more in making workplaces that support mental health, and creating a mentally healthy workplace for their employees. Whether you’re a manager or peer, here are  five tips on how you can contribute to establishing a healthier place to work.

Promote work life balance

Expecting staff to work long hours, or work from home in the evenings after a working day will actually diminish their productivity and negatively impact their mental health. As a manager, you may not expect your team to work long hours, but do you work extended hours yourself? Setting this example may be just as problematic.

Some staff may find it difficult to establish these boundaries. A manager focused on creating a mentally healthy workplace will assist them by setting clear expectations, delegating appropriate amounts of work with reasonable deadlines, and ensuring they unplug at the end of the day. Managers can also speak to staff proactively to encourage them to take their holiday leave.

See something, say something

If you’ve noticed that a colleague seems unusually quiet or low, find a suitable time to speak with them. Perhaps a quick coffee or lunch in the canteen will give them an opportunity to share any concerns or issues. Quite often all it takes is an empathetic ear and a simple open-ended questions such as “I’ve noticed you’ve been a bit quiet – how have you been?” to lessen the feeling of isolation that goes hand in hand with mental illness. Mental health training can give you the skills to have these conversations.

Reduce the stigma and focus on prioritising wellness

Make it a priority to speak about and provide resources on topics such as stress management, physical wellbeing and mental health. Some companies will offer healthy food or fitness groups and activities in the workplace to promote wellbeing. Even if these resources are not available, speaking openly about mental health may help some people feel more accepted and validated in the workplace. 

 

Celebrate achievements

 Acknowledging and highlighting achievements, whether individual, team or organisational, are an important way of creating a psychologically safe workplace. Staff members will feel that they are valued and their work is appreciated which leads to the added benefit of increasing motivation and productivity. 

Build mental health skills

 There are many different ways to weave mental health into the workplace through training.

For example, providing coaching and mentoring training for managers will help them create positive, high-trust relationships with their teams, which in turn creates a psychologically safer environment. Resilience, stress management or change agility training can equip staff members to better deal with their day-to-day responsibilities. Investing in Mental Health First Aid training and introducing policies and procedures to support trained staff has also become a must-have addition to many businesses.

If you would like more information on creating a mentally healthy workplace, book in for mental health first aid training, or discuss training tailored to your workplace’s needs, please contact Kirsten on kirsten@empoweredlives.net.au

Is my workplace a mental-health friendly place to work?

Is my workplace a mental-health friendly place to work?

In this new workplace reality where we are constantly connected to a smart device, working in a  never-sleeping global economy, people are valuing workplaces that create safe spaces and support their mental health more than ever. Whether you’re seeking a new job, or want to know how your current organisation measures up, here are a few key signs that your work is doing things right. 

 

Good morale

Are you and your colleagues happy to come to work?

Do you feel your contribution is valued? 

Do you feel supported to do your job?

 

If you answered yes, then your workplace has good morale and a positive culture. This is an important contributor as low morale within a team or department can devolve into a vicious cycle of negativity and poor performance.

 

Attitude to overtime

Is overtime a standard expectation, or an unusual request?

Are the deadlines and amount of work delegated to you reasonable and achievable?

Do you find yourself thinking about work a lot in your downtime?

 

Working too much has real implications for your health and your personal life. At work it impacts productivity, workplace safety and your physical health. Yet, some of the biggest issues happen at home. A study by Cornell University shows that approximately 10% of employees who work 50 to 60 hours per week report severe work-family conflicts. The divorce rate also increases as weekly hours increase. 

 

A mentally healthy workplace does not encourage or reward excess overtime. During busy periods some people may need to work more than a 38-hour week, but this workplace would balance this with offers of flex-time, flexible working arrangements or time-in-lieu. 

 

Staff turnover

How long have you been working for your company?

Do people usually stay in their jobs or with the company for an extended period of time?

 

If people tend to stay with an organisation then it’s an indicator that they feel valued and supported. They may also feel that the workplace understands their needs, goals and aspirations, and that these are achievable. These are all important ingredients in a mentally healthy workplace. 

 

Promote wellbeing

Does your organisation have policies, procedures and services that promote mental wellness and life balance?

Do leadership talk about mental health?

Do team members feel comfortable discussing their mental health with their managers?

 

Many organisations will offer some sort of Employee Assistance Program so staff members in need have access to a counselling service. But many businesses are taking this even further with new initiatives; yoga or meditation classes, flexible working hours, remote work and providing healthy food and snacks in the office. 

Some of Australia’s largest employers like Optus and the Department of Education and Training are upskilling staff, particularly managers, as Mental Health First Aiders and putting into place policies,  procedures and programs to support their role in the workplace. Often staff members will confide in their managers or colleagues, and this course empowers them with tools to support colleagues in a safe manner.

 

Assessing whether you work in a mentally healthy workplace is only part of the challenge. Leaders and team members all contribute to creating a safe, mentally healthy environment, and in the future we will unpack how you can help in your role and the resources available to you. 

Mental Health in the Workplace – Poor Work Environments

Mental Health in the Workplace – Poor Work Environments

Given that the majority of adults spend more time at work than elsewhere, the workplace is a major contributor to people’s physical and mental health. More and more we are hearing about workplace mental health. There is such a lot of information out there, on a whole bunch of topics. 

We want to dive into the issue of mental health in the workplace, and break it down each week.

What are the facts?

  • Mental Health problems affect 1 in 5 Australians, 
  • 1 in 2 people experience a mental health problem over their lifetime
  • Anxiety and depression tend to affect people during their prime working years 

Mental ill health costs Australian workplaces

  • $4.7 billion in absenteeism
  • $1.6 billion in presenteeism
  • $4.6 million in compensation claims per year
  • Mental health conditions result in 12 million days of reduced productivity for Australian businesses annually.
  •  6% serious workers comp claims for work-related mental health conditions
  • 92% serious work-related mental health conditions are due to work-related mental stress from a poor quality work environment.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Australians are in the workforce, in a broad range of industries, businesses and roles. This means along with other factors impacting your mental health, your work environment can be a significant cause of mental health problems. 

The risk is increased if you work in an unhealthy work environment where there is significant work-related stress. 

Most people know when they are working somewhere that is making them feel unhappy, you might talk to colleagues about crap hours or an overbearing manager. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to identifying poor work environments. If you know what the signs are, you can start making changes and improving your mental wellbeing at work. 

 

Some of the things that create a poor working environment are:

 

Working long hours or overtime, working through breaks or taking work home.

 

Working a 9-5 job from 8-7 (with no lunch) because there is so much to do, or having to work on weekends gives you less time to attend to other important areas of your life. Like sleeping, spending time with your family and generally just all the stuff that life is about. 

You work in a shop and you can’t take your breaks because there is no time between customers and no-one to cover you. 

 

No control over tasks

 

In a lot of jobs, you don’t have any autonomy to choose your own tasks, or how you can perform them. This makes it hard to perform these tasks well, which can lead to frustration. 

 

Lack of support from co-workers and managers

 

It is hard to work somewhere where your receive no support in your work, and you can’t get anyone to help you when you need it. If your managers doesn’t lead your teams effectively, making sure that everyone is working well together. If you don’t feel that you can go and talk to your manager to get clarity around your work, you are left to fend for yourself. 

 

High effort/low reward work

 

You are putting a lot of effort into your work, or the type of work you are doing is high level, but you are not being recognised or rewarded for your effort.  

 

Bullying, & Harassment

Bullying & Harassment alone can create a bad workplace. This can include abusive language, intentionally ignoring someone, being overly critical of someone’s work, malicious rumours. 

 

Unfair treatment

 

When some staff are treated differently to others, or given more favourable work or attention. Brenda is over there getting the plum jobs and you are sifting through filing cabinets.. 

 

Poor communication

 

Staff and managers not being able to clearly communicate with each other can lead to work not being performed properly, people feeling undervalued, and a lack of respect among workers.

 

Work that is emotionally draining

 

People who work in the human services and health sector’s work can have work that involves highly emotional and psychological aspects which over time can lead to burnout.  

 

Time pressure

 

You might not be given enough time to get all your work done. There is the urgent brief you have to write that is highly important and complex and it needs to be done by the end of the day…and you get the email about it at 4pm.

 

Insecure work

 

If you are a casual employee or a subcontractor,  ongoing work is not always guaranteed. This can put more pressure on you, to feel like you have to perform well to ensure you keep getting work. 

 

Poorly managed changed

 

If your workplace is going through changes, and you are not consulted about them it can make it hard to feel on-board with the changes. If there is no consideration about employee’s feelings through changing work environments, it can create additional tensions.

 

Industry related issues. 

 

Different industries can have different work-stress. Nurses, Doctors, Police and Emergency services have high exposure to suffering and death. Customer service employees often have to deal with customers who are abusive or have unrealistic demands. Fly in Fly Out workers, like miners etc face isolation and lack of immediate support. 

 

Discrimination

 

Discrimination can take many forms and can be related to your gender, ethinicity, race, sexuality, or pregnancy. 

 

Even if your workplace only has a few of these things occuring, it can still cause significant impacts on your mental health.

 

The good news is that it is possible to create a mentally healthy environment. We are going to explore more about mentally healthy workplaces and things you can do to achieve them in future blogs. 

Suicide & Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide & Suicidal Thoughts

In Australia 1 out of 5 adults experience some form of mental illness, with many not receiving professional assistance. Around 2,800 Australians die from suicide each year, and for every one of those, up to 20 people attempt suicide. However, with intervention, support from family and friends, effective treatment and time, many people who have had suicidal thoughts, or attempted suicides can have long, fulfilling and productive lives. 

Accredited Mental Health First Aiders can play a part to provide early intervention, referrals to relevant professionals, ongoing support and working together to ensure someone’s safety during a crisis.

People feel suicidal because the distress caused by the illness can be so great they may feel an overwhelming desire to end their life. Suicide can also be related to distressing life events. People with Depression, Psychosis and drugs and alcohol problems are particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. 

The majority of people who are suicidal give warning signs about their intentions, and when having a mental health conversation with someone these are things to look out for:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • self-harm
  • expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
  • an overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
  • a dramatic change in personality or appearance, or irrational or bizarre behaviour
  • changed eating or sleeping habits
  • a severe drop in school or work performance
  • a lack of interest in the future
  • giving away possessions and putting their affairs in order.
  • dramatic changes in mood

Many people speak of their intention to commit suicide or write about it. For adolescents on social media posting information about suicide, saying goodbye and deleting accounts can also be a sign. 

It is important that if you think that someone might be having suicidal thoughts that you ask them directly. Listen non-judgmentally, find out more from the person so you can assess whether there is an immediate safety issue. If there is, stay with the person, get appropriate help, and look at creating a safety plan.

It is vital that if you are having these discussions, and providing support to someone who is suicidal, that you take care of yourself and practice some form of self-care.

Attending a mental health first aid course takes you through the process of identifying signs of suicidal thoughts, assessing the risk to the individual, and having conversations about suicide. It gives you information about the services that you can recommend, and how you can provide ongoing support. 

Contact us to book into our upcoming courses. 

If you or someone you know are experiencing a suicidal crisis, please contact

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467

NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511

References:

Standard Mental First Aid Manual 2019

Sane https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/suicidal-behaviour

Safety Plans

Safety Plans

Safety plans – what they are, who can make one and why creating a safety plan for someone who is suicidal is important. 

A safety plan is for people to use when they are feeling unsafe or suicidal – a plan to refer to and remind themselves of reasons to live, family and friends they can talk to, ideas of activities to do when they’re alone to aid when they are vulnerable. This should be a collaborative process between the person, and a mental health first aider or mental health professional. 

Before making a plan find out:

  • Check if the person already has a safety plan, or has had one in the past.
  • Find out who has helped them in the past. 
  • Find out what support they want from you. 

The plan should:

  • Be something to refer to, and remind the person what they have to live for.
  • Focus on things to do when they are feeling suicidal.
  • Be clear, outlining exactly what will be done, who will be doing it, and at what stage these actions should be put into place
  • Be for a length of time that will be easier for the suicidal person to cope with, so that they can feel able to fulfill the agreement and so it can be reviewed and revised. 
  • Include contact details that the person agrees they will call if they are feeling suicidal. eg. GP, a mental health professional, a suicide helpline or 24/7 crisis line, and family and friends who will help in a crisis. 

Safety plans can be really detailed, or they can be simple, this will depend on the person requiring a safety plan.

There are great apps that can be downloaded onto your smart-phone. This way people can always have their safety plan handy.

We recommend Beyond Blue’s Beyond Now app or the 

ReMinder app from Suicide Call Back Service.

Attend a Mental Health for the Suicidal Person course to learn more about safety planning and how to support someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know are experiencing a suicidal crisis, please contact

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467

NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511

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