Health is Wealth

October 6, 2014

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“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” 

– Fred Rogers

[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”]Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. The environment that we therefore choose to invest these waking hours is critical not only as a source of income, but also our mental health and well being.

Too often we tend to really only focus on the value of our health when we no longer have it. As a result our ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude is costing us dearly both as individuals and as business leaders.

This week marks Mental Health Week, providing us with the ideal opportunity to look at how we acknowledge and manage the impact of mental illness in our role and businesses today. With one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness every year it is a very real issue for all employers to navigate.

There is no debate that mental illness is a complex issue. The best definition of mental illness I have read is ‘the interaction between individuals, their coping and resilience skills and their jobs’. Whilst the workplace is only one facet of the issue, it is a critical one.  Adding to this complexity is the variance in between an individuals coping skills – where one person may be able to work in a stressful situation without becoming unwell but others will.

Depression and anxiety are the leading cause of long-term sickness absence in workplaces today. Adding to this is the associated issue of ‘presenteeism’ where employees remain in the workforce despite their condition causing a significant reduction in performance and productivity.

Overlay the additional pressures of changing business landscapes; high staff turnover; the growing demands of needing to ‘do more with less’; the general pressures of modern work and life; and the need for creating healthy workplace environments has never been more evident.

It is estimated that the cost of mental health to the Australian workforce is over $12 billion every year, which includes a staggering $200 million worth of workers compensation claims (source: Black Dog Institute 2014).

Not only is this dollar cost alarming but so to is the human cost. Creating healthy living and workplace habits that also focus on prevention is critical for us both as employees and employers. The benefits and costs are enormous both financially and culturally:

  • Healthy team morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Strong corporate culture & brand
  • Increased individual well being
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Decreased staff turnover and overhead costs
  • Greater innovation and contribution
  • Skill retention


  • Absenteeism
  • Grievances & Litigation
  • Accidents
  • Errors of Judgement
  • Conflict & Frustration
  • Customer Service Issues
  • Impaired thinking & Decision Making
  • Resistance to Change

[vcex_spacing size=”10px”]Healthy workplaces consist of collaborative and co-operative teams. They provide a sense of connection by helping to create meaning and purpose and a strong sense of achievement and identity.

So how do we induce good workplace health and not just correct it?

  1. Educate

Creating or changing the culture of a workplace to be fairer to people facing a mental illness starts with education. Education for all employees on how to manage, support and seek help for their own well being or that of a staff member.

  1. Discuss

We need to teach managers and team members to simply ask ‘are you okay’ and equip them with the knowledge and skills to deal with the response in an appropriate and confidential manner. In doing so it encourages both parties to reach out and take action.

  1. Demonstrated Leadership

A commitment to employee health and safety needs to be reflected in words and actions. Whilst strong policies and procedures are critical, unless the message is ‘walked and talked’ the ability to create a healthy workplace is impeded.

  1. Right Job Fit

Ensuring that we have the right people in the right job at the right time is the key challenge for organisations today. Promoting and appointing individuals to positions that are not an appropriate fit on skill set or leadership style is not only stressful for the employee but also their extended team and client or customer base.

  1. Understand Employee Strengths

Tom Rath’s book Strengths Based Leadership finds that employees who use their top five strengths on a daily basis are 600% more likely to be engaged at work and are 300% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

  1. Provide Practical and Confidential Resources

The vast majority of employees are reluctant or unwilling to discuss their condition with workmates. There is therefore a clear need for employees to access anonymous and confidential resources and information. This could be in the form Employee Assist Programs (EAP’s) or access to online information via an organisation’s intranet and online resources.

No person or single team can do it alone. Addressing mental health issues requires honesty, courage, understanding and dedicated time and resources, at both an individual and organisational level if we are to bring about long-term change.

Do you work in a mentally healthy workplace? What actions have you or your organisation taken to create this environment and how has it been embraced?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot – The Career Diplomat [vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you would like to know more about creating healthy workplace frameworks or minimising stress in your role, please contact Margot directly on margot@talentinsight.com.au or + 61 3 9866 3842.[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”88″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”http://talentinsight.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=961a17dac8287c94458c7983d&id=f81e0aac65″]