News & Insights

Protect business productivity: be proactive about workplace mental health

Published 28 November 2018

Business managers may have an enormous blind spot when it comes to productivity – the mental wellbeing of their employees. Here’s why it pays to mitigate this intangible but important risk.

Mental health disorders are now the primary cause of work disability around the world, and Australia shares the second highest prevalence of depressive disorders, at 5.9%, with the United States and Estonia, in the 180 countries surveyed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017. In first place: the politically and economically troubled Ukraine.

According to a Beyond Blue-commissioned study, the State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, a further third of the Australian population exhibits symptoms of worry, sleeplessness and fatigue.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reports that research indicates ‘job stress and other work-related psychosocial hazards are emerging as the leading contributors to the burden of occupational disease and injury’.

Impacts in Australian workplaces include

  • a total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress
  • stress-related workers’ compensation claims have doubled in recent years, costing over $10 billion each year
  • a survey of over 5000 workers indicated that 25% of workers took time off each year for stress-related reasons
  • in relation to psychological injury claims, work pressure accounts for around half of all claims, and harassment and bullying for around a quarter of claims
  • preliminary research shows that Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions.

Source: AHRC Workers with Mental Illness: a Practical Guide for Managers

What can businesses do to stem the trend?

Mental health expert Dr Tyler Amell says there are three key actions organisations can take to prevent mental health issues in the workplace.

  1. Take advantage of the digital resources available. Psychometric tools, stress heat maps and gamification modules have been shown to help teams switch off, discreetly access advice and build their resilience.
  2. Use reporting to obtain accurate metrics. Real time absence reporting by managers gives organisations visibility of staff health, fuelling motivation and providing triggers for intervention.
  3. Access expert resources. Along with providing workers’ compensation cover, insurance providers such as the award-winning Gallagher Workplace Risk team can
  • analyse workplace health and safety conditions
  • identify potential issues
  • develop a protocol and action plan for achieving reduced absences and incidents
  • initiate training programs that provide mental first aid training to key staff.

Gallagher National Head of Workplace Risk Vivienne Toll (pictured) says that mental health issues, while complex in nature, also represent an opportunity to apply a specialist approach that works towards a solution.

“Mental health first aid programs and initiatives allow the concept of first aid training to extend to mental health concerns so that employers and employees are empowered to provide better initial support to someone who is developing a mental health concern, has a worsening of an existing mental health problem or is in a mental health crisis," Toll explained.

“Gallagher Workplace Risk is focused on partnering with organisations to ultimately create a workplace environment that is focused on its people as its single most important asset,” she added.

Find out more about Gallagher’s Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Risk specialism here.

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Further reading

Workplace risk

What are my obligations for protecting my business's workers?

Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective, and offer broad information about risk mitigation, loss control strategy and potential claim exposures. We have prepared this commentary and other news alerts for general information purposes only and the material is not intended to be, nor should it be interpreted as, legal or client-specific risk management advice. General insurance descriptions contained herein do not include complete insurance policy definitions, terms and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for coverage interpretation. The information may not include current governmental or insurance developments, is provided without knowledge of the individual recipient’s industry or specific business or coverage circumstances, and in no way reflects or promises to provide insurance coverage outcomes that only insurance carriers’ control.
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