Proactively protecting employees when they are well could be the solution to Australia’s mental illness epidemic, according to a global expert on workplace health.
Mental health disorders are now the leading cause of work disability in every country around the world and are estimated to cost the global economy up to AUD $23 trillion by 2030.
Dr Tyler Amell, CRO at CoreHealth Technologies, said poor mental health in the workplace could directly trigger physical health problems, heightening unproductivity and absenteeism.
“Instead of scrambling into action after a crisis, employers need to be more proactive in supporting employees with appropriate tools and resources before it hits,” he said.
Speaking at the 2018 Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association (ARPA) national conference in Sydney on Monday, Dr Amell said a number of preventative strategies were available to business leaders.
“Prevention provides results. Preventative strategies include assessing who might be at risk of mental health illness, talking about it with your team to reduce stigma and making sure leaders have appropriate training to help colleagues in need before a crisis occurs.
“It’s about planting the seed for improved resilience and being better prepared for any future work disability risk,” he said.
Three ways employers can improve mental health in their workplace, according to Dr Tyler Amell:
Dial up digital
“In the last three years, there has been an explosion of apps to support mental health.
“Psychometric tools, stress heatmaps and wellness gamification modules have proven to help teams to switch off, receive advice discreetly and build their resilience.
“If you are not already, make sure you are giving your team access to digital tools, dashboards, resilience monitors or wellbeing apps so they can monitor their own mental health.
“The tools that work best are the ones that fit in with your business’ culture, focus on individual risk and prepare people for changes. There are many digital tools that can challenge individuals to improve their lifestyle behaviour. They encourage small changes like taking the stairs or parking the car further away, improving sleep quality and diet all adding up to an improved lifestyle over time.”
Update your reporting
“Encourage your managers to report how many days they lose to stress-related sickness and absences each year.
“Clear reporting can motivate leaders to manage stress levels proactively in their teams.
“Real time absence reporting gives organisations greater visibility of their teams’ health and can influence when leaders might step in, thereby improving early intervention. The internal data gathered from this reporting can also provide the evidence to invest in worker health and productivity programs.
Speak to an independent expert
“Workplace rehabilitation providers are experts in helping people who have sustained a work-related physical or mental injury recover and return to work.
“They also offer services to help employers mitigate the risk of injury in the workplace. This is time well spent.
“The majority of Australia’s 2.17 million businesses are legally required to hold mandatory workers’ compensation insurance, costing them more than $10 billion every year. Many employers aren’t aware their workplace insurance policy includes access to a workplace rehabilitation provider,” Dr Amell said.