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 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. 

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