Mentally healthy workplaces

Date28th May 2021

Director Forum Insights

Finity’s recent Director forum included an awareness-raising presentation on mental illness in the workplace by Sue Freeman, followed by a lively panel discussion drawing several interesting experiences from the audience.

Key takeaway messages from the forum for Company Directors in the insurance sector include:

1. Workforce mental health issues pose potentially significant financial and non-financial risks for organisations.

Impacts may include absenteeism, loss of productivity, impaired decision-making, deterioration of team functioning and morale, misconduct and reputational damage, and workers compensation claims.

2. Most employees experiencing mental health issues are not identified and do not lodge workers compensation claims - they 'soldier on' at work, but with impaired performance.

3. Most Executives and Boards are blind to the mental health indicators within their organisation and do not monitor them.

For example, surprisingly, employee surveys in 2017 indicated that men in the Finance and Insurance sector reported 'moderate mental ill-health' more often than men employed in the Retail and Manufacturing sectors

4. The psycho-social hazards that impact mental health need to be identified, assessed and managed in the same way as physical hazards - and where relevant, included on Board Risk Registers.

5. Benchmarking tools and guidelines are available, but WHS teams within organisations often do not prioritise psychological risks and may not have the appropriate background and skills to manage this aspect of the workplace.

Developing this “new” expertise may require building trust and close collaboration between HR and WHS professionals

6. An effective mental health strategy requires leadership commitment, engagement and consistency starting at the Board and CEO level cascading to all levels of staff. Key components for success include:

  • Sound, relevant and “living” mental health policies and procedures

  • Commitment to minimising psychosocial risks and supporting vulnerable and high risk workers

  • Specialised training and access to support for managers to recognise warning signs, implement policies consistently and know when to seek advice.

Co-authored by: Tessa Barnett