JEFF KENNETT: Mental Health Issues Cost Australian Business $11 Billion A Year

Photo: supplied.

In this special guest post by the Hon, Jeff Kennett AC, chairman of beyondblue, which tackles depression and anxiety, he reveals that a workplace having a positive attitude to mental health is the second most important influence, after salary, in someone accepting a job and explains the new website Heads Up, which offers advice on maintaining a healthy workplace.

When businesses big or small think about their Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) obligations, they more often than not think about accidents that might cause physical harm to their employees.

What is less well-known is that within the OH&S legislation and regulations, there is a requirement for employers to ensure their employees work in a mentally healthy workplace. In other words, a workplace should be a place and environment that respects people, and is conducive to producing good outcomes.

beyondblue, the National Depression and Anxiety Initiative, has commenced a major Australia-wide campaign called Heads Up to reinforce employers’ responsibilities to their staff, and to encourage businesses to join our campaign to deliver mentally healthy workplaces.

With the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, which includes business groups, governments, the Black Dog Insititute and SANE, we intend to change many of the environments in which people have to work.

In the same way that beyondblue has changed the public discussion around depression and mental health over the last 14 years, so do we wish to ensure mental health in the workplace is a priority and that going to work is a pleasurable experience.

Mentally healthy workplaces are those where:

    • managers and employers respect and understand the needs of the people they manage and employ
    • individuals’ needs are respected and responded to with flexibility
    • people can work together and support each other in a culture that is friendly
    • outputs improve because the workplace culture is a positive and supportive.
    Such an environment has social and productivity benefits.

A recent report by Instinct and Reason found that businesses that did not invest in a mentally healthy workplace were losing staff, productivity and money. After pay at 31%, the second most important factor for a person choosing a job was mental health at 14%.

Since launching two weeks ago, the Heads Up website has had more than 1300 registrations and more than 23,000 visits from people wanting to find out how they can make their workplaces mental health friendly.

While beyondblue’s foremost concern is for the employees’ health and wellbeing, a recent PwC report found that the cost of employees’ mental health conditions on productivity, participation and compensation claims was a staggering $10.9 billion to Australian workplaces a year.

So there is a real win-win situation if an employer invests time in ensuring his or her work place is a mentally healthy one. Good for the staff and good for the business.

Heads Up is a campaign that will keep evolving, and which will have a life as long as it takes to ensure we have changed the culture in many businesses big and small.

I strongly recommend all employers, managers and business owners visit Heads Up website to learn more, join up, and commit to this exciting program.

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