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What is a mentally healthy workplace?

A mentally healthy workplace protects mental health, proactively responds to support people in need and promotes good mental health and wellbeing for all.

Part of the Setting up for success module.

A mentally healthy workplace protects, responds and promotes

A mentally healthy workplace “actively minimises risks to mental health, promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, is free from stigma and discrimination and supports the recovery of employees with mental health conditions”.1

Put simply, a mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes mental health and responds to people who may be experiencing mental ill-health in a supportive way. Focusing on protection, response and promotion encourages workplaces to examine the strengths and areas of opportunity when it comes to mental health in the workplace.     

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a shared responsibility. All people – from senior executives and managers to employees (including permanent and casual employees) – play an important role, both in looking after their own mental health and wellbeing, and actively building and sustaining a mentally healthy workplace.

A mentally healthy workplace continually improves

There is no simple solution to creating a mentally healthy workplace. Instead, mentally healthy workplaces monitor areas of risk or opportunities related to mental health, act to make improvements and measure whether these actions were successful. They integrate mental health in work health and safety systems.

Change is led from the top and integrated into everyday operations

Achieving organisational change to become a mentally healthy workplace requires collaboration among all stakeholders. In particular, the board, executive and other senior leaders should fully support the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce.

The most effective ways to create a mentally healthy workplace focus on improving how the organisation operates. Examples include improving how work is assigned and managed, how managers are trained and supported, how change is managed and what processes and policies are in place to support people.

Your approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace can, and should, align with organisational goals and objectives. In larger organisations, it should be integrated across functional areas (e.g. human resources, safety, wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, organisational development, finance, marketing and communications). 

These are the key features of a mentally healthy workplace

The Blueprint for Mentally Healthy Workplaces contains a detailed description of a mentally healthy workplace. These are the key features:   

  • A proactive approach to health and safety: Psychosocial hazard assessment and control are legislated work health and safety obligations. People must be able to raise issues and concerns about these hazards and controls without experiencing any adverse consequences.
  • A zero-tolerance approach to discrimination: As well as being the law, protecting employees from discrimination encourages a diverse workforce and ensures everyone gets a fair go.
  • Realistic work demands for all staff: Employees have reasonable workloads, realistic and clear expectations and deadlines and good lines of communication, and feel secure about their job. Managers and supervisors work with people to keep work demands in check.
  • People experiencing mental ill-health are supported: Helping people to stay at or return to work has clear benefits, both for the individual (e.g. staying connected to work) and the organisation (e.g. retaining a valuable worker).
  • Adequate level of mental health literacy: The workplace invests in training to help people recognise the signs of mental ill-health to reduce stigma and encourage help seeking.
  • People feel safe to disclose mental ill-health: People feel comfortable talking about mental health or raising other concerns and know where they can go for support if they need.
  • Positive workplace culture: When the attitudes and actions of people at all levels of the organisation make employees feel valued, supported respected and involved, people feel good about coming to work. They tend to feel encouraged, supported, respected and included. This allows employees to be fully present and work to their best ability.

Mentally healthy workplaces enjoy a host of benefits – not only for the organisation and the economy, but for employees, their families and the broader community. 

1 LaMontagne, A., Martin, A., Page, K., Reavley, N., Noblet, A., Milner, A., Keegel, T., & Smith, P. (2014). Workplace mental health: Developing an integrated intervention approach. BMC Psychiatry, 14, 131. Read the article here

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