How mental wellbeing drives commercial performance

How mental wellbeing drives commercial performance

September 1, 2017 by Stella Petrou Concha

Ignoring mental health is costing Australian businesses
​$48.9 billion per year in lost productivity according to recent research.

As a leader, how do you create an environment that supports both mental wellbeing whilst still driving commercial performance?
Through 2020 Exchange, I had the opportunity to spend a morning with three industry leaders who shared their insights and experiences on what our responsibilities are to protect our staff and how to increase organisational awareness to better support mental wellbeing. Here is my “take home” message from the morning.


Most mental health cases are born from the home

Tom Parker – PeopleSense – Associate Director and Registered Psychologist kicked off the meeting with a staggering statistic that 80% of mental health cases are actually instigated by issues pertaining to home life and not work life. 20% of claims are instigated from work and these mental health cases are often born from workplace disagreements and “bullying”. Despite the fact that mental illness often has nothing to do with work, it’s the work place that tends to suffer as the productivity and performance of the individual begins to wane as the pressure of life increases.


Having meaningful conversations

Derick Borean – Chief Executive Officer of Altius Group spoke freely about the prevention of mental health issues at work. He said that the majority of claims can be prevented through effective leadership driven by weekly 1:1s. A weekly 1:1 creates a space for trust and safety so your staff can feel safe enough to talk to you about how they are holistically as a being. How do you create a psychologically safe environment? Derick believes that having meaningful conversations with people is the first step.

Meaningfull conversations with staff is the first step to mental wellbeing in the workplace
Having meaningful conversations with people is the first step to creating mental wellbeing.

Your legal obligation

Sue Barnes – Macpherson Kelley – Special Counsel – Workplace Relations NSW gave us the insight on what our legal obligations are to protect our people. She used the analogy of poor performance management approaches to mentally unwell staff. Putting pressure on them to perform is like putting a sleepless and tired driver behind the wheel of a truck and asking them to deliver a load of goods. Our obligation is to assist them back to health by making reasonable adjustments to their work place before seeking an external assessment from a psychiatrist, it’s legally critical.


Wellness Programmes – prevention is the best cure

Wellness programs that teach resilience and provide weekly 1:1 frameworks were the most successful. Free fruit boxes, subsidised exercise programs and snooker tables didn’t contribute significantly to a mentally sound workforce. Teaching people to be more resilient and giving managers the tools to facilitate empathetic conversations, were the key.


So next time you catch up with your team, ask them “R U OK”? You are doing your bit to contribute to a more productive and mentally healthy workforce.


For more tips on creating a productive work environment, check out Reo’s blog!


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