The aim of a Workplace Mental Health Plan is to have a structured, ongoing approach in the supportive management of employees’ mental health and wellbeing. It includes intervention strategies, addresses risk factors, and has a plan to manage mental health conditions and support staff. Health and safety needs to be front of mind and integrated into all workplace procedures, workplace practices and communicated openly by the leaders and management to all employees. Once developed, best practice would be to seek input and feedback from employees to ensure they are aware of and are comfortable with the Mental Health Plan.
Let’s look at some considerations to include in your Mental Health Plan.
1. Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing training
Leaders and managers who are formally trained in mental health and wellbeing, will be equipped to openly and regularly communicate the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Additionally, having the skills and knowledge to recognise when someone could benefit from a mental health conversation, respond appropriately in crisis conversations and refer to professionals when necessary is key. Mental health awareness at the senior level also helps to reduce the stigma attached to mental health conditions which helps create a supportive environment
2. Understanding mental health risks in the workplace
Knowledge of mental health risks can assist leaders to proactively identify, evaluate and minimise possible psychological issues in the workplace. This can help alleviate stress which can have a positive effect on an employees’ mental health. For instance, consider:
- Reviewing absences to identify any trends – for instance staff burnout, stress leave or compassion fatigue for customer facing staff
- Programs to identify bullying and violence and aggression Safe Work Bullying Safe Work Violence and Aggression
- Conducting exit interviews to determine if there may be any systemic mental health concerns in the workplace
- Reviewing job design for mental health risks such as workplace conditions, physical danger and exposure to trauma, as well as less obvious aspects such as repetitiveness, lack of peer and management support, and inability to meet expected outcomes.
3. Ensuring a fair and reasonable workplace environment
A 2014 study of Australian employees found that 35% of employees didn’t know if their workplace had any policies, procedures or practices to support mental health. Whereas, 81% of the leaders indicated their workplace had one or more policies, procedures or practices to support mental health5. Consequently, many employees don’t actively seek mental health support at work because there is either a lack of policies, procedures and practices in place, or they don’t know that these resources are available. Research tells us that employees are more likely to seek support from a work colleague than from a manager or through formal pathways, so it’s important employees have the basic skills and awareness to help assist them with supportive conversations and guide their peers to the EAP.
5TNS (2014). State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia. (In Conjunction with Beyond Blue)