From bonkers to bonzer
Madalyn Parker is a web developer from Olark Live Chat in Ann Arbor, Michigan, US. She has been living with anxiety all her life and is a vocal advocate of supportive workplaces. Earlier this year, she emailed her team at work to explain why she was taking a few days off.
Titled ‘Where’s Madalyn’, she wrote, “Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully, I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%”.
To her surprise, her CEO responded.
Ben Congleton’s response is refreshing and rare since mental health is often considered the last taboo at work. And Madalyn is not alone.
Most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, whilst some of us spend more time with our colleagues than our families. Technology, for all the good that it brings, has ensured that work is readily accessible at all hours of the day or night, long after we’ve physically clocked out.
As Australia focuses on safety at work in October, it’s crucial to remind businesses how mentally healthy workplaces are equally vital in ensuring Australian employees are protected in body and mind.
What do the stats say?
In July 2017, Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, called for politicians to put mental illness on their economic reform agenda, citing to how it costs the national economy $15 billion a year in health care and lost productivity.
“Mentally healthy workplaces prevent harm to the mental health of their people…the importance of having mentally healthy workplaces cannot be overstated.”
—Professor Allan Fels, Chair, National Mental Health Commission
In a study on Australian employees by TNS Social for Beyondblue, 91% agree that it is important to work in a mentally healthy environment, but only 52% agree that their current workplace is mentally healthy.
Adopting a mentally healthy workplace: where to start, what to do
Depending on your budget and knowledge, here are 10 ideas to get you started.
- Enrol your managers and supervisors in courses like the Mindful Employer Program to help them respond effectively to mental health issues at work and manage workplace adjustments.
- Encourage awareness of mental health conditions and mental health responsibilities.
- Have a zero-tolerance policy on workplace stressors like bullying, discrimination and harassment.
- Have a defined process in place for employees who may need to seek help.
- Get a pulse on how your employees are doing with anonymous feedback.
- Make online resources and tools from peak bodies and agencies like Black Dog Institute, Beyondblue and the National Mental Health Commission readily available for your employees.
- Include employee health and wellbeing in business objectives.
- Offer flexible work schedules if and when possible.
- Promote time management apps and tips for employees to help with productivity and workload.
- Mandate that employees truly switch off when they are on leave.
A different state of mind
In August 2017, data from the National Coronial Information System, commissioned by The Australia shows that tradies are statistically more vulnerable to break down due to demanding workloads and ‘bloke archetype’.
“Tradies fix most things, but not always themselves.”
—Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
The APA knows all too well how hard it is to get through to the tougher-than-nails tradies. The latter would rather self-medicate than open up or reach out for help about their struggles and anxiety.
So in 2014, the APA partnered with Steel Blue to create a series of videos featuring comedian Dave Hughes and using irreverent humour to resonate better with the intended audience, even if it was to just get them talking.
(Like that? Check out the “Tradies National Anthem” here.)
By creating a supportive and safe culture, you give your employees a sense of security, purpose and happiness. When employees are fulfilled, they can be more innovative and productive. Whatever your organisation decides to do, know that investing in well-being initiatives or programs at work will ultimately benefit everyone.
“It is a balancing act. But laying everything else aside, we are all human.
And we should care for each other.”
—Lucy Brogden, Co-chair, National Mental Health Commission