Challenge 1: Mentally healthy work.

Improving and sustaining the mental health of workers represents one of the most important, and achievable, means by which to create business value, with broader social impacts for communities and Australian society.

What is it?

 Mentally healthy work is a job assigned to an employee who is best placed to do it, within an organisation system, team, culture and place that minimises psychosocial risk, and supports good mental health at work and at home.

“To function at their best, people need healthy environments, cultures and practices to protect them from potential hazards, support recovery, and provide opportunities to develop professionally and personally.” – Blueprint for Mentally Healthy Workplaces, National Mental Health Commission.

We can view mental health in employment as being a combination of mentally health work, workplace, and workforce. With the right job design and supporting structures, individual worker mental health in an organisation can aggregate as workforce resilience in the face of rapid and continuous change.

The business case for change.

Mental health is quite possibly the most misunderstood and underrated asset human beings have.

We take it for granted and we create the most challenging conditions, both physiologically and psychologically, for it to successfully persist, if not thrive.

The estimated cost to business every year from negative mental health impacts is $13 billion and yet, if we engender good mental health in the workplace, there is an estimated 500% return on productivity. On social and economic metrics, it stacks up.

Why invest in mental health?

  • It’s the law
  • Managing and mitigating health and wellbeing risks are core governance considerations, and reportable via ESG frameworks (address the S in ESG)
  • Mentally healthy people are better workers: more productive, creative, and resilient to change
  • Recruitment and retention of the best talent in an extremely tight labour market
  • Better customer experience, particularly in service businesses where happy staff mean happy customers
  • Competitive advantage

A significant portion of our waking hours are spent at work. The work and workplace have a huge impact on quality of life which is why investing in workplace mental health is necessary.

We’re taking a stand.

Mental health is an asset to nurture, not a problem to fix. That’s a fundamental position for every organisation to take. In many cases, it will flip the way mental health is addressed: from responding to issues as they arise to placing workplace mental health as a core element in strategy, measured with positive metrics aligned to other core KPIs, and a competitive advantage in an extremely tight labour market.

A mentally healthy workplace is the right of every person. Not only that, but every person should thrive at home and work. As commonly accepted definitions of workspace and work hours are bent or remade, so too must the parameters of organisational and personal responsibility for mental health adapt.

Every organisation needs to understand and act on mental health. Employment comes with responsibility: to employees, customers and the company. Getting mental health right is a win-win-win. Every organisation should have a strategy and plan, supported with infrastructure, activities and credible independent health and wellbeing services.

 We need to break things (not people). Work needs to change. We are way past having conversations and the passive provision of EAP support. This is a ground-up job. One size does not fit all. We need to work with all employees, particularly those with lived experience, to create a vision of mentally healthy work, and plan how to get there. Becoming and staying mentally healthy is a continuous opportunity.

Get it done, get it measured (in that order). Resist the impulse to build the measurement system before addressing the challenge. Ask people what matters, and how an organisation can help immediately and ongoing, then design the metrics. Create value. Send the right message.

People make strategy work.

How we can help.

We work with company leaders and teams to develop workplace mental health strategy and policy, co-designing education, communication, systems, process and measurement that establishes positive mental health as an asset to nurture, not a problem to fix.

We work from the principle that organisations need to get governance right, but mental health needs to be shaped and driven by employees. Becoming and staying mentally healthy is a continuous opportunity that is owned by employees and supported by the organisation, its leaders and managers.

Large organisations do not have a homogeneous workforce: cultural identity, role identity, job requirements, managerial responsibilities, and level of mental health literacy as well as operational maturity, all vary. The same organisations providing the same services in the same industry can have highly divergent systems and culture.

One size does not fit all, within a company and cross-sector.

We apply systems thinking, behavioural insights and design-thinking tools and approaches – with employees, including those with lived experience – to create a vision of mentally healthy work, and a plan on how to get there.

In delivery, our work looks like:

  • Benchmarking studies assessing best practice and current standards
  • Employee research to understand to: psychosocial hazards and risks related to roles, teams, work and context; perceptions; and understanding.
  • Mental health strategy development and integration
  • Mental health strategy activation planning
  • Strategy, policy and initiative co-design
  • Behaviour change communications and experience design
  • Education design
  • Work redesign
  • Measurement and reporting

Further reading

Case studies: