Fostering mentally healthy workplaces

Mentally healthy workplaces work better for everyone – employees, managers, business owners and organisational leaders. As well as promoting a positive, productive workplace culture and minimising risks to employees’ mental health, mentally healthy workplaces support people with a mental health condition and prevent discrimination.

An action plan was launched by beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance on 16 June, as part of the Heads Up initiative, which encourages the Australian business community to take action on mental health. The action plan can be applied to an organisation as a whole, or across designated work teams within the business.

An action plan provides a strategy for an organisation, manager or team leader to begin or continue to develop a mentally healthy workplace. It is about identifying what the business or team is doing well and the areas that require improvement. A plan outlines the priority areas (aims and objectives), implementation action and required resources, and a review process.

The Heads Up action plan is an interactive guide that allows businesses, managers and team leaders to create a free, online plan tailored for their own size, industry, needs and goals. beyondblue encourages businesses to take action across three broad areas:

  • Raising awareness and reducing stigma
  • Supporting employees with mental health conditions
  • Promoting a positive working environment

The step-by-step approach is similar to usual business planning practices.There are some essential elements to ensure its success:

  • Senior organisational leaders and business owners are committed to positively influencing the working environment, management practices and the experience of employees
  • In larger organisations, managers are supported with training and resources to implement the plan
  • Employees have input at every step, from planning through to implementation and review
  • Policies and procedures provide clear, concise guidance on how the business or organisation is to function ensuring the needs of managers and employees are considered
  • Sufficient time and resources are allocated
  • A sustainable approach is taken that involves monitoring, reviewing and modifying the plan
  • Benchmarks for mental health are established as part of annual strategic planning and budgeting.

An understanding of the current work environment and its approach to mental health should guide the development of an action plan. In developing an effective action plan a three step approach should be applied.

1. Identify priority areas of action

After evaluating the current workplace practices, leaders and managers can start to identify priority areas of action. There are a number of key issues that are relevant to workplaces across all industry types and sizes. These include:

    • Raising awareness of mental health issues
    • Reducing stigma
    • Supporting individuals with mental health conditions
    • Building individuals’ skills and resilience
    • Facilitating access to psychological support services
    • Promoting positive job roles and working environments
    • Policy development and implementation
    • Workplace risk factors.

2. Implement actions

Once businesses have identified priority areas of action they will need to develop a set of clear and measureable objectives for the plan to be embedded into workplace practices. Objectives should be future-oriented and describe the outcomes expected from the initiative.

3. Review and monitor outcomes

All plans for change need to have a review process. This provides an opportunity to identify whether the program objectives have been met, while also identifying any areas that need further development. Reviewing outcomes encourages increased employee participation and demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to the mental health of its staff.

Konekt urge all other business operators and managers to visit the website www.headsup.org.au, join Heads Up, create their Heads Up action plan, and start taking action to improve mental health in their workplace.