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How to promote positive mental health in the workplace

Employers can play an active role in maintaining the health and wellbeing of their staff.  Simple changes can make a huge difference and have ongoing benefits for the organisation as a whole Steps can be taken to reduce employee stress levels.

Mental health is a growing concern for employers, with untreated conditions costing Australian workplaces an estimated $10.9 billion per year. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 45% of Australians aged 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with job stress and other related psychological hazards major contributing factors.

The main causes of work-related stress

Work-related stress often occurs when there is a conflict between what’s expected of an employee and what they are capable of doing. Other common causes of workplace stress include:

  • Long hours
  • Heavy workload
  • Job insecurity
  • Poor working environment
  • Changes within the organisation
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Lack of support
  • Low levels of recognition and reward
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses

Symptoms of work-related stress

While some employees will openly discuss their mental state with their employers, others may choose not to due to fear of discrimination, harassment or reduced opportunities for career progression. As an employer, it’s important to watch for signs of mental illness and intervene immediately if you suspect that something is wrong. Some of the signs to look out for include:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Performance issues
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Change in behaviour
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • An increase in sick days or absenteeism
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Arriving late for work and leaving early

How to minimise stress in the workplace

Employers can play an active role in maintaining the health and wellbeing of their staff.  Simple changes can make a huge difference and have ongoing benefits for the organisation as a whole. Some of the steps that can be taken to reduce employee stress levels include:

  1. Improve Communication – Encourage employees to speak to their supervisors if they have any concerns or issues they need help with. Let them know that their managers are there to help and support them, and that they can voice their frustrations and ask questions at any time.
  2. Encourage physical activity – Studies have shown that daily exercise can reduce stress significantly. Encourage employees to get outside for a walk during their lunch break or offer discounted gym memberships as an incentive. Physical activity can stimulate the mind and body and help employees focus on their work.
  3. Offer flexi-time and remote working options – Flexible working can involve any scenario that allows an employee to meet the objectives of their job. If implemented correctly, flexible work arrangements can benefit the entire organsiation by reducing costs, increasing output, and improving company morale.
  1. Set clear guidelines – Clarify job requirements and responsibilities so employees know exactly what is expected of them. Doing this will reduce confusion, increase engagement, and help employees achieve their goals. Be clear on attainable objectives and provide employees with the tools and training they need to accomplish each task.
  2. Make Your Employees Feel Valued – Recognise and reward staff who do a good job. Acknowledging an employee’s hard work and providing positive feedback will boost their confidence and improve staff morale. Offering small rewards like free food, movie tickets, or gift vouchers will also go a long way towards making employees feel appreciated.

Work-related stress is a major problem that affects not only the health and wellbeing of employees but the organisation as a whole. By implementing some simple strategies employers can help reduce stress levels within a team and create a mentally healthy workplace that is productive, engaged, and committed to achieving results.


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