Prioritise mental health to improve productivity

Creating a mentally healthy workplace has a wide range of benefits for businesses. Not only are their workers happier, but there's every chance they will also become more productive as a result.

This is the message of a new report commissioned by the Mental Health Commission, which identified just how important it is for employers to move the wellbeing of their workers to the top of their agenda.

The report, titled Developing a Mentally Healthy Workplace: A review of the literature, highlighted that ignoring the issue has a significant and negative impact on the economy. Costs of around $11 billion a year are being imposed on businesses as a result of mental health not coming to the fore.

University of New South Wales and Black Dog Institute researchers explained that absenteeism and lost productivity are two of the biggest effects that are seen by companies. Aside from taking a closer look at workflow automation and other strategies, it could therefore be in a manager's best interests to consider the overall wellbeing of their staff.

Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Allan Fels noted that many of the steps businesses can take could be seen as common sense.

"Things like smarter work design and positive work cultures are key to preventing mental health problems, while promoting resilience and early intervention can both help minimise negative impacts and support recovery," Professor Fels acknowledged.

Data from the Black Dog Institute shows as many as one in five Australians between the ages of 16 and 85 will experience mental illness at some point over the course of the year. Nearly half (45 per cent) of people will be affected by such problems during their lifetime. 

Around a quarter of people between the ages of 18 and 24 are affected by mental illness, making this age group the worst-affected.

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