Robyn presents new resources for managing mental health in your workplace. This column appeared in the August 2021 edition of Workplace Issues.
Over recent years, there has been greater awareness and conversation in our communities and the media about looking after our mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its disruptions and stresses, sharpened the focus on making our mental wellbeing as much a priority as our physical health.
There has also been an increasing awareness of the role that workplaces can play in supporting good mental health. After all, many of us spend a good portion of our daily lives at work. It makes good sense to consider the workplace as an important setting to support health and wellbeing.
More and more resources are available for employers and managers. Our WorkSafe Tasmania Advisors have long championed workplace wellbeing, including mental health. Their practical resources, like policy templates and planning guides, can help any employer or manager set up a workplace wellbeing program that includes a strong mental health focus. We have also curated a list of resources on our website for you to create a mentally healthy workplace.
As promoted in the last edition of Workplace Issues, there are two new free tools that workplaces can add to their mental health toolbox
Head4Work (external link) is an online training tool that will help workers, supervisors and managers reduce workplace mental health risks and support themselves and their co-workers when concerns about mental health arise. It is suitable for small businesses (20 or fewer workers). The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through a grant from the WorkCover Tasmania Board, is providing Tasmanian businesses with free access to Head4Work.
People at Work (external link) is designed to help employers across Australia create mentally healthy workplaces and meet their responsibilities under work health and safety laws. The hazards measured by People at Work are based on decades of research. People at Work has been jointly funded by Australian work health and safety regulators, including WorkSafe Tasmania through the WorkCover Tasmania Board.
In the same sphere of supporting mental health is preventing and managing work-related psychosocial injuries: mental health traumas caused for example by workplace bullying, pressures and stress, occupational violence, physical and sexual assault.
In June, Safe Work Australia released its report into psychosocial health and safety and bullying in workplaces (external link). The report shows the rate of mental stress claims has risen in recent years, as has the rate of harassment and/or bullying claims. Safe Work Australia cautions that changes in laws and increased willingness to report mental stress claims are influential factors in the increase. But we still cannot ignore them.
In Tasmania, our data shows that mental health injuries have been escalating over the last 10 years. In 2020, the number of mental health injuries statewide was 60% higher than ten years ago. In some industries, the increase is much greater, with Health Care and Social Assistance, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, and Arts and Recreation all having reported more than twice as many mental health injuries in 2020 as ten years ago in 2011.
There are some inroads being made though. Financial and Insurance Services and Other Services industries have demonstrated a decrease in the number of mental health injuries in the last ten years. And there are early signs that industries such as Retail Trade, Manufacturing and Transport may be beginning to stem the increases in mental health injuries in recent years.
Everyone has a duty to foster a workplace that is safe and healthy, and that includes being free of risks to people’s mental wellbeing. Employers should be proactive in reducing the risk of unacceptable behaviours occurring in their workplace, taking the lead in creating a mentally safe and healthy workplace. Workers should understand their duty of care not to bullying, harass, or otherwise harm a co-worker’s mental health and safety.
I encourage you to make use of all the tools and resources readily available to you, so you can foster a workplace that is supportive and respectful, as well as safe, for everyone.