Mental health in the workplace has become a more profound issue than ever before.
News 12 January 2021

The workplace health and safety risk that is too often overlooked

With the start of a new year, employers should be reviewing their mental health strategy to ensure the wellbeing of their employees and the long-term performance of the business.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we work forever, and as part of this new way of working, mental health in the workplace has become a more profound issue than ever before.

At the Victorian Chamber, we work with many well-intentioned employers wanting to improve mental health in their businesses but are unsure of where to start. VCCI’s Health Safety and Wellbeing team have a wealth of experience advising employers on where and how to improve, here are some of the most common recommendations our team make.

Training

For a topic as complex as mental health in the workplace, nothing is more beneficial to a team than talking the issues through in a group setting and sharing best practice principles. Deciding exactly which staff members or businesses areas are in most-need of training is for the business to determine, however, there are specific areas of development which will impact different areas more greatly.

Awareness

At a minimum, VCCI recommends that all frontline managers should have a basic awareness of how to recognise the typical early warning signs of poor mental health in their employees and be able to possess the confidence to intervene where necessary in a professional and empathetic way. Ideally, managers should also have the skills to support an employee who is experiencing a mental health crisis until professional help is available.

The law

Business owners, managers and leads must also (at a minimum) have a basic understanding of how mental health interacts with different areas of the law, including workplace relations, workers’ compensation, safety, privacy and disability discrimination. What may seem simple errors or a faux pa by a manager can lead to legal action against the business resulting in huge legal costs that could have been easily avoided.

Culture

A manager should also have the skills to manage the impact of an employee’s poor mental health on the rest of their team with thorough return to work planning and skillful communication.

Employees will also benefit from mental health awareness training, which aims to decrease stigma and encourage understanding and promote mental health self-care strategies.

Policies and procedures

Many businesses – especially large organisations maintain a sophisticated health and safety management system. However, in many cases, mental health is often overlooked in safety policies and procedures. Specifically, processes for identifying, assessing and reducing the risks associated with mental health hazards in the workplace.

References to mental health should also be found in your health, safety and wellbeing statement of commitment, as well as your policies on first aid (if you have decided to train mental health first aid officers), job modification/return to work, drugs and alcohol, and risk management.

Strategy

Achieving any goal in the workplace requires a plan, targets, and ways to measure performance. Businesses must use the same approach to create a supportive and sensitive environment for mental health.

Very few employers have their mental health objectives defined in their business strategy, and fewer have a robust plan outlining how they intend to get there. Important questions you should ask yourself as an employer include:

  • What are our goals for the mental health employees?
  • Are they specific, measurable and achievable?
  • How will we measure progress along the way?

More information and support

The Victorian Chamber’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing team offer a comprehensive range of mental health training and consulting services to help you get your mental health strategy right in 2021.

For more information, HSW consulting, training and other support please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au to discuss your needs. 

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Media Contact

All media enquiries may be directed to the Media and Communications Manager

03 8662 5310

0423 883 945

media@victorianchamber.com.au

For all other enquiries please contact the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333

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