Around 45% of Australians between 16 and 85 years will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. Therefore, it is likely that as a manager or a business owner, you will supervise someone with a mental illness.
Some employees may develop their mental illness outside of the workplace; however, this is not always the case. You may have employees who are experiencing considerable stress at work that contributes to a mental illness.
Worksafe Victoria describes work-related stress as the physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions of employees who perceive that their work demands exceed their abilities and/or resources to cope and do their work.
A total of 3.2 days per worker is lost each year through workplace stress. Some factors that can cause stress include unreasonable work demands, lack of role clarity, little autonomy, and poor support from managers and colleagues.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace
The organisational culture of your workplace plays a big role in employee productivity, motivation and loyalty. As a leader in your organisation, you can implement some measures to create a mentally healthy workplace:
- Establish clear policies and procedures
- Encourage autonomy
- Have well-defined structures, roles and responsibilities
- Be realistic about what an employee can achieve
- Ensure open communication with your employees about any issues and changes that impact the organisation
- Value the contributions from your employees and colleagues in decision-making
- Encourage a workplace where employees support each other
- Allow open communication when any issues arise
- Provide constructive feedback
- Recognise your employees formally or informally
- Provide training, development and growth opportunities
- Ensure your managers are trained to recognise mental distress and support their staff
- Offer support if an employee is struggling with their workload or any other issues
- Create a culture where it is OK to talk about mental health
- Provide access to counselling services.
Be open about mental health in the workplace and promote a work-life balance. By providing a mentally healthy workplace, all workers will benefit, and it makes good business sense.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results 2007
 Medibank Private (2008) The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia