A recently released white paper from the University of Tasmania’s Work, Health and Wellbeing Network provides nine ways for organisations to implement an integrated approach to workplace mental health. Given Western Australia has just completed a very successful Mental Health Week we thought it would be a good idea to place some of the talk into practical solutions for business in tackling and supporting workplace mental health.
An integrated approach to workplace mental health looks at preventing work-related mental health stress while at the same time promoting positive practices to identify mental health issues early. It is both predictive and proactive while supporting a preventative approach. There is a clear need for such an approach because otherwise organisations engage in disjointed, ad-hoc solutions focused on specific individuals rather than the business as a whole achieving systemic, sustainable improvement.
The research identified 3 priorities for preventing workplace mental health harm:
1. Develop knowledge, skills and resources for psychological health and safety at all levels in workplaces.
Employers, leaders and people managers should have the skills and knowledge to identify hazards and put in place appropriate control measures. They also need to be able to talk to employees and know when, and how, to get expert advice on psychological health and safety.
2. Require and support employers to develop a psychological health and safety strategy, policy and procedures.
Organisations should develop a comprehensive mental health and wellbeing strategy, and accompanying policies and procedures. They should address work-related risks to employee mental health and wellbeing.
3. Develop emotional and social intelligence in leaders and managers.
Leaders and managers should understand their own and others Understanding emotional responses and should be included in efforts to develop capability in psychological health and safety. Leaders and managers should encourage others to have an open and understanding attitude to what people say to them about the pressures of their work or other issues.
The research identified 3 priorities for promoting the positive:
4. Design jobs to promote positive mental health.
Everyone in the workplace should contribute to a work environment that is positive and health promoting with a focus on strengths, opportunities and resources that encourage employees to reach their full potential. Effective job design contributes to the effectiveness of the organisation by encouraging creativity and empowering employees to develop more efficient ways of working.
5. Provide training and development in positive approaches.
Employees at all levels can be provided with information and education on evidence based strategies that can enhance positive mental health (for example, resilience and mindfulness). Employees
should be provided with a variety of positive mental health and wellbeing programs.
6. Assess and promote the strengths of individuals and teams.
Leaders and managers should know their own strengths and the strengths of their team so that they can create a positive environment where these are utilised and people excel. When people appreciate that each person has a unique set of strengths that can be leveraged, it encourages them to value individual differences and contributions.
The research identified 3 priorities for managing mental illness:
7. Undertake stigma reduction and mental health literacy programs to foster a work environment where people are able to seek help early without adverse consequences in the workplace.
Effectively responding to employees with a mental health problem, regardless of cause, is a critical component of the integrated approach. Workplaces can play an important role in encouraging employees to seek help early for mental illness.
8. Ensure clear roles, responsibilities and processes for supporting employees with mental illness.
Having appropriate supports in place for employees recovering from a mental health problem can mean the difference between them recovering faster and staying in their job, or leaving their employer or the workforce altogether. Ensuring there is clarity regarding roles and responsibilities in this area, is critical to creating a supportive work environment for employees.
9. Implement flexible work practices to facilitate accommodation of individual needs.
Flexible work practices enable individuals to make adjustments to their changing circumstances and can assist employees in balancing work and personal commitments, while meeting business
needs and objectives. Flexibility should be tailored to the individual needs of employees, rather than a one size fits all approach.
Part of an integrated approach to workplace mental health is including online and mobile solutions such as All of Me. This platform helps organisations identify staff groups with mental health issues early. It helps to increase mental health literacy by providing refresher training on workplace stressors that impact mental health. Finally, it provides an alternative method non-confrontational way to encourage help-seeking.