How to optimise mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

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There are five key domains that must be addressed in order to optimise mental health and wellbeing outcomes in the workplace, according to an expert in the area.

By addressing these domains, employers can support all employees and proactively mitigate potential mental health and wellbeing risks, while supporting individuals who are experiencing mental health conditions.

Superfriend’s recent financial and insurance services industry profile in the Indicators of a Thriving Workplace found there are five areas that organisations and HR professionals need to focus on in order to improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

In organisations which proactively address and improve these five domains, the report suggested that mental health and wellbeing-related issues can be reduced significantly, including job insecurity (by 29 per cent), bullying (24 per cent), work-related insomnia and lack of flexible working arrangements (22 per cent) and discrimination (17 percent).

1. Leadership
“One of the most important factors will be cultivating positive leadership within organisations,” said Margo Lydon, CEO of SuperFriend, which helps superannuation funds and insurers achieve mentally healthy workplaces.

“Leaders who understand the need to evolve and update their mental health and wellbeing practices post the Royal Commission will lead the way for innovative workplaces where employees can thrive.”

According to the report, people who are optimistic that mental health and wellbeing in their workplace will improve in the foreseeable future, rank leadership in their organisation twice as favourably than people who are not optimistic.

“One of the most important factors will be cultivating positive leadership within organisations”

Lydon said there are four ways HR can help develop positive leadership within their organisations:

  • Understand, explore and leverage team members’ strengths
  • Understand people’s growth and development goals
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Set performance, job-related goals and provide feedback

2. Connectedness
Positive, high-quality interpersonal connections are essential to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

“They are the fabric of teamwork and collaboration,” said Lydon, who explained that having a shared vision and knowing how employees’ roles fit into the organisational framework can unite people, creating purpose and meaningful work.

Trust, fairness and social inclusiveness are all fostered where positive interpersonal connections occur.

The report found that people who are optimistic that mental health and wellbeing in their workplace will improve in the foreseeable future, rank connectedness in their organisation nearly two times more favourably than people who are not optimistic.

Lydon said there are four elements to consider in improving connectedness in the workplace:

  • Foster high-quality connections
  • Notice and harness people who are ‘positive energisers’
  • Create spaces to connect
  • Create platforms for dialogue

3. Policy
While many financial services employers have clear policies in place and offer positive employee benefits such as confidential counselling and employee assistance programs, Lydon said that businesses should also ensure front line managers are given the time and the training to help prevent workplace mental health issues occurring in the first place.

“A key focus for employers should be creating job designs that enable employees to bring their best self to work”

Incorporating a good mental health policy, strategy or action can provide a clear structure in the workplace when forming decisions.

“With the prospect of greater regulation and compliance pressures in the industry making roles more complex, a key focus for employers should be creating job designs that enable employees to bring their best self to work,” said Lydon.

4. Capability
Employees help define an organisation’s culture and values, according to Lydon, who said that organisations which promotes and support mental health and wellbeing also motivate employees to improve their skills and workplace engagement.

The report said that 19 per cent of people can successfully overcome most challenges they face if they are highly engaged at work and do not feel bored.

A further 18 per cent of employees believe their talents, skills and competencies are employed well in their work.

5. Culture
People who are optimistic that mental health and wellbeing in their workplace will improve in the foreseeable future, rank culture twice as favourably than people who are not so optimistic, according to the report.

Lydon explained that there are a number of ways organisations can help improve their culture:

  • Completing a culture survey
  • Craft positive organisational values
  • Model values-based behaviours
  • Engage all levels of the organisation in a culture of care