Co-workers listening to other co-workers presenting

Workplace well-being makes good business sense

It has been a year like no other. When it comes time to doing your annual business review, however formal or informal that may be, think about the well-being of your team. How has your team come through the year?

Leaders play a crucial role in creating thriving workplaces, no matter the size of the team. And more and more information is coming to hand that investing in workplace mental health makes sound business sense.

Productivity Commission on Mental Health

A couple of weeks ago, the Productivity Commission released its long-awaited report on mental health. Unlike other many reports on the topic, this one used an economic lens to investigate mental health impacts. In doing so the Commission estimates the total combined cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health is around $220b each year.1

The report identified the importance of building mentally healthy workplaces and enabling people to participate in and thrive at work. The Commission made a number of recommendations relating to embedding psychological health and safety in workplaces, assisting employers to meet their duty of care, ensuring minimum standards for employee assistance programs and creating better workers compensation schemes.

The role of workplaces

So how much, or little, does your workplace do in relation to the mental well-being of team members?

According to one study by Beyond Blue, 91% of employees believe workplace mental health is important but only 52% believe their own workplace is mentally healthy.2

Creating a thriving workplace is not just good for your people – data shows that every $1 spent can provide a $2.30 return by way of factors like increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.3 This means that efforts to improve employee well-being may boost your bottom line too.

Here are a few points to consider.

Workplace Health and Safety

You may be aware of legislative requirements for the physical health and safety of employees, but the obligations extend to psychological safety too.

If your workplace has never conducted a psychosocial risk assessment, it may be something to consider. Safe Work Australia has a lot of information to help get you started.

Psychosocial work hazards increase the risk of stress and can impact an employee’s mental health. These factors include:

• Excessive job demands
• Low job control
• Workplace conflict or bullying
• Low role clarity
• Poor organisational change management and uncertainty
• Low recognition and reward
• Unfair work practices
• Lack of support
• Isolation
• Exposure to trauma

Checking in with your team

Sometimes a person may appear okay on the surface, but below the surface it may be a different story.

Everyone has a role to play in recognising potential warning signs. This can be as simple as asking someone how they are going. It can be awkward or uncomfortable to have these chats but there is a lot of information to guide you.

In fact, there is no shortage of workplace mental health training and resources available. Helpful resources include the workplace mental health hub, Heads Up, developed by Beyond Blue which includes a comprehensive ‘how-to guide’, and national mental health promotion foundation, Superfriend, who recently released their Indicators of a Thriving Workplace report.

No matter what state or region you live in, there is a stack of information at your disposal. 


One of the most observable trends to come out of COVID-19 is the tendency for people to overwork. The blurred lines between our work and personal lives is a big contributing factor. Alongside physical symptoms, burnout can have many other negative repercussions including reduced cognitive ability, increased stress, reduced productivity and it could even have a negative effect on team culture.

It’s worth noting that leaders have been under increased pressure as a result of COVID-19 with increased expectations and responsibilities falling on them. This also highlights the need for leaders to look after themselves and model good self-care in their own lives. To use an old analogy, leaders need to put their own oxygen mask on first before helping others!

1  https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries
2  https://www.headsup.org.au/docs
3  Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace, PwC and Beyond Blue 2014. https://www.headsup.org.au

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