In addition to the legal risks, there are the practical difficulties that come with managing people who are genuinely not well, or not attending work or not responding to reasonable requests.
We decided to undertake a survey of our clients to get a better picture of the challenges they are facing in this regard and the data certainly mirrors their anecdotal concerns. In summary, our report has eight main findings, which we have elaborated on in the body of this report:
- Managing staff with mental health issues is an increasing concern for Australian employers.
- Depression and anxiety are the most common staff mental health issues.
- Organisations are not measuring the impact of staff with mental health issues on their workplaces.
- Most organisations do not have specific policies or procedures for identifying and managing staff mental health issues.
- The level of investment in preventative mental health and wellbeing programs is not directly related to organisational size but it does relate to how satisfied participants are with their organisation's management of staff with mental health issues.
- Opportunities are apparent in terms of increased training and involvement by managers and executive teams in the management of staff mental health issues.
- With workload and stress as the biggest risk factors for staff mental health, there are opportunities in terms of managing risk factors inherent to a staff member's role and also in managing risk factors associated with the individual staff member.
- Half of participants feel they need additional skills and knowledge to proactively identify and manage staff mental health issues.
There are many more detailed studies into mental health and we would be delighted to point you in the right direction if you're looking for more reading, but most address the issue from the perspective of the employee. The beyondblue "State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia" is one such example. Among the sobering statistics in that study are the findings that only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy and only 56% believe their most senior leaders value mental health.
We hope our findings offer some insights into managing mental health from an organisational perspective. Some of this information will be a surprise, some data may support what is being observed in the workplace. Regardless, we hope our report enables employers to benchmark their workplace and provides either evidence that it is implementing best practice strategies or provides the necessary information to drive the changes required to improve the management of mental health in the workplace.