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Things you can do at work for your mental health

Many of us spend a big part of our day at work. This means that the workplace and our work can impact our mental health both positively and negatively.1

Workplaces that promote mental health and wellbeing are places where everyone feels supported and able to do their best work, regardless of whether or not they have a mental health issue.

Work can positively impact our mental health and wellbeing by feeling connected, involved and gaining a sense of purpose. However, there are times when the workplace may adversely affect our mental health and ability to do our job.

Workplace Stress

Work-related stress or “job stress” occurs when someone feels that the demands of their role are greater than their abilities, skills or coping strategies. A certain amount of stress is a good thing, but when it becomes excessive and prolonged this can be a risk factor for developing mental health issues.

There are little things we can do to help our mental health and wellbeing at work as well as trying to find a positive work-life balance.

Managing your work role:

  • limit extra working hours
  • schedule meetings during your work hours
  • take regular breaks
  • try not to take work home
  • set realistic deadlines and deliver on time
  • make use of Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
  • go for a walk during your break, a walk can help clear your head
  • learn something new, take opportunities at work to learn and grow
  • talk to your manager if you feel you are unable to manage the demands on you.2

Understanding mental health:

  • educate yourself about mental health
  • support initiatives around improving mental health in the workplace
  • take reasonable care of your own mental health and that of your colleagues.

Why is mental health relevant to the workplace?3

  • Mental health is becoming an increasingly important topic in the workplace.  
  • In Australia, mental health issues are one of the main health-related reasons for reduced work performance. 
  • There is increasing evidence that workplaces can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and well-being of their workers.
  • Every workplace has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a safe and fair workplace, and support the mental wellbeing of their workers.  
  • A well designed workplace can support individual mental health and wellbeing, leading to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (i.e. when someone is at work but their health is impacting on their performance), increased employee engagement and improved productivity.

Thrive @ Work Strategy

The Mental Health Commission has partnered with the Centre for Transformative Work Design (part of the University of Western Australia’s Business School) to develop the Thrive @ Work Strategy. Thrive @ Work strategy aims to assist workplaces to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.4

How to create a healthy workplace for mental health and wellbeing:5

Everyone has a role to play in creating a healthy workplace, and simple strategies can help achieve this. Research has identified many job characteristics that are positive, that result in work being more motivating or less stressful. Examples of positive job characteristics include:

  • “job autonomy - being able to make decisions within the job
  • role clarity - clear expectations and responsibilities defined
  • task variety - having a range of tasks in the job
  • skill utilisation - the opportunity to use one's skills in the job
  • task significance - doing a job that is important
  • task identity - doing a whole job
  • job feedback - getting feedback whilst doing one's work support from colleagues and managers - strong collaborative relationships between managers and employees with the availability of effective leadership and manager training
  • good balance between role demands and abilities/resources to do the work
  • recognition and reward – recognising individual or team contributions within a workplace are important to maintaining motivation and commitment.”

Other things workplaces may wish to consider include:

  • tailor your approach to fit your workplace and the needs of your employees
  • start small and work towards taking action across multiple areas
  • strategies and actions should be underpinned by sound policies and procedures that are relevant to your workplace
  • speaking openly about mental health in the workplace including any personal experiences
  • use the resources available, such as those at Headsup.

Content last updated: 21 October 2017

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