Strong new calls for businesses to deal with employee depression and other mental health conditions are backed by a detailed analysis of the bottom line benefits.
Many business leaders don’t know how to help employees who are struggling with depression and anxiety in the workplace, says Georgie Harman, CEO of beyondblue, which has launched a groundbreaking campaign to do something about it.
Workers with depression and other mental health conditions continue to face discrimination and don’t receive the same support that people with physical injuries receive, says Harman.
“Creating mentally healthy workplaces is everyone’s role, but employers need to take the lead.”
beyondblue’s Heads Up campaign, launched in May and run in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, is centred around its website. A first-of-its-kind action plan can be utilised to allow businesses to implement mental health plans tailored to their specific workplaces.
The need for such plans is backed up by SANE Australia, whose research has found that, while the vast majority of managers genuinely care about their staff, almost four out of five say they lack the knowledge, confidence and skill to deal with depression in the workplace.
SANE Australia says the signs of depressive illness can be varied, but outbursts of anger, decreased productivity and arriving late to work are telling.
“The initial stage is to notice change,” says Eliza Oakley, manager of the organisation’s Mindful Employer program, which was launched in 2012. Then it’s about early intervention to return the employee to their best as quickly as possible.
The benefit to the bottom line from taking such action is the focus of a new, detailed report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), ‘Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: Return on Investment Analysis’. It calculates that, on average, Australian businesses receive a return of $2.30 for every $1 they invest in effective workplace mental health strategies. For some businesses, the return rate can be as much as $15.
The report takes into account factors such as productivity, absenteeism and compensation claims in finding that the impact of employees’ mental health conditions cost Australian employers at least $10.9 billion a year.
beyondblue says more than three million Australians experience depression or anxiety.
Under its new campaign, beyondblue advocates creating an action plan at HR level and following the Heads Up framework to aid the integration of strategies that assist with helping those suffering from depression in the workplace.
“The commitment of business owners and organisational leaders is critical for improving the mental health of workplaces,” it says.
“They have a significant impact on workplace culture and the working environment through their behaviour, leadership style and the design of job roles.
“The reduced scale of small to medium businesses means owners and managers are likely to have more frequent interaction with workers and be an even more significant determinant of employee mental health.”
Six steps to success
The PwC report, ‘Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: Return on Investment Analysis’, says key actions include creating a positive working environment, building individual skills and resilience, and supporting staff with mental health conditions. It lists six critical success factors.
- Commitment from senior organisational leaders and business owners.
- Employee participation.
- Developing and implementing appropriate policies.
- Adequate resources to ensure the success of initiatives.
- A sustainable approach to follow initial success.
- Planning to tie all the elements together.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the October 14 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘In the blue corner. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.