Did you know mental illness is now recognised as a leading cause for workplace absences, sick leave and long-term work incapacity? These absences and the mental illness affecting workers can have a large impact on workplace culture. This includes morale, productivity and the overall performance of an organisation. Integrating training programs into your organisation is crucial to addressing this.
It may surprise you, that many people find a well-intentioned, once-a-year fundraiser confronting. Comprehensive workplace training can make a real difference. Organisations can then cultivate a supportive environment, where people feel more inclined to come forward and disclose something deeply personal to their peers or leadership group.
A crucial first step to better workplace management is coming to terms with the reality of more than 300 million people living with mental illness globally. More workers are coming forward to speak openly about their struggles with mental health. As a result, employers and HR leaders face an increasingly complex challenge: appropriate management of employees suffering mental health issues. We are implementing training programs that inform and increase awareness around mental health at work are more frequently, but are we implementing them correctly?
To effectively integrate this valuable learning into your organisational culture, the relevant takeaways from mental health training must be built into leadership training programs.
A consistent approach
Workplaces promoting mental health and giving consistent support to people suffering mental health issues are more likely to increase organisational productivity, thereby reducing absenteeism and benefiting from a positive workplace culture.
Healthy workplaces promote mental health by:
- informing workers of their available support options
- implementing effective policies and training around workplace mental health
- developing positive aspects of work and encouraging awareness around mental health
- promoting the strengths of their workers and recognising and rewarding positive actions
- learning from others (e.g. leaders and workers who have taken positive action around mental health)
- increasing awareness of the work environment, and adapting it to improve mental health for all workers
- involving all workers in decision-making processes, to convey a sense of control and positive participation.
A supportive environment
While it’s often assumed that work is detrimental to our mental health, the World Health Organisation assures us that in many ways, work is good for our health. If a workplace has, however, cultivated a negative environment, this can lead to both mental and physical health problems and is likely to exacerbate existing issues.
Organisations have a responsibility to provide a supportive environment for all workers, including those with mental illness – whether they’re continuing to work, or returning to work after an absence. Unemployment can have a detrimental effect on the long-term health of individuals with mental illness, but there are many workplace initiatives that can assist with maintaining steady employment:
- job adaptation
- flexible work hours
- awareness of work dynamics
- supportive and confidential communication
- informed management, acting with understanding and awareness.
A positive workforce
Let’s face it. We spend up to a third of our lives at work. It’s therefore undeniable that our workplace can affect our mental state. Furthermore, training around this topic is a huge benefit to those in management roles seeking to support their workers. Because of this enriched understanding and awareness, workers feel empowered to give appropriate levels of help. Empowered workers lead to a healthy workplace culture, where everyone feels valued, supported, and is less likely to take time off work or present for work in an unfit state. They’re also more likely to assist a co-worker to seek help.
Everyone can benefit from their workplace addressing mental health ‘head on’. Mentally healthy workplaces record better interpersonal relationships between staff, reduced turnover and improved productivity and morale. Providing mental health training in your workplace can help present the facts to your organisation without fear or stigma. In raising awareness, your organisation can work toward breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental illness. In Australia alone, one in five workers will experience mental illness in their lifetime. Effective mental health training at work can make a real difference in someone's life. Give your workers access to the tools and knowledge they need to make that difference.