Workplace Adjustments to Support Mental Health

What Workplace Adjustments are There to Support Mental Health?

One in five Australians are affected by mental health conditions in any given year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic compounding existing issues such as stress and anxiety, it is particularly important to pay attention to our own mental health and that of our colleagues.

One of the keys to creating a more inclusive workplace for employees with mental health conditions is offering adjustments to remove barriers and enable them to succeed in their role.

For advice on what kind of adjustments there are and how to access them, we ask National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) Professional Adviser Rob Crestani.

The Importance of Mentally Healthy Workplaces

“There’s a clear business case for creating mentally healthy workplaces. Mental ill health has a huge financial impact on Australian businesses every year,” Rob says.

“Studies have found that this cost can be dramatically reduced through relatively simple measures, and the return on investment is great. A 2014 analysis by PwC actually found that for every dollar invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace, businesses get an average return of $2.30.”

“We can do a lot to create mentally healthy workplaces that isn’t just about supporting individual employees with existing conditions, but also about preventing undue workplace stress in the first place. A great resource, especially for managers, is the Heads Up guide for creating a mentally healthy workplace, which also defines mentally healthy workplaces and gives tips on how to support a team member you may be concerned about directly.”

Heads Up Guide to Mentally Healthy Workplaces

The guide, Heads Up also identifies features that mentally healthy workplaces have in common, like:

  • a positive workplace culture
  • well-managed workloads
  • deadlines and other risks to mental health
  • good communication between staff and from leadership
  • support for staff with mental health conditions
  • and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.

Finding Solutions

“Communication is key when supporting staff members with mental health conditions. People living with mental illness are often aware of the stressors that can trigger symptoms for them, so they may already have suggestions on how they can be better accommodated,” Rob says.

“Many workplace adjustments for mental health conditions come at little or no cost at all. Examples include flexible work hours and arrangements, mentoring, additional training, modifying and reallocating tasks, or engaging an Employee Assistance Program or counsellor. You may also want to establish goals and regular check-ins with an employee, especially if they have recently been off work due to their mental health condition,” he continues.

“It is important to avoid making assumptions about what your employee will need. Not everyone needs adjustments, and the same adjustments might not work for different people. Having regular, open conversations ensures that the situation is working for everyone, but remember, employees are only required to share information about their mental illness with you if it could have an impact on their ability to complete the tasks required for their role,” Rob suggests.

Accessing Support Services

“Many people may not know that JobAccess via the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) can assist with funding for Mental Health Awareness Training in the workplace. It may also be able to provide funding for one-to-one support with a mental health specialist to assist with working on a work-based mental health plan,” Rob says.

“To learn more about the EAF, visit our website or get in touch with JobAccess at 1800 464 800 to speak to one of our Professional Advisers. You can also find an overview of short courses on both disability and mental health here.”

Other Services for Mental Health Assistance

  • Heads Up was created by Beyond Blue to give businesses and individuals the tools to create mentally healthy workplaces and offers a range of resources on their website.
  • Head to Health can help you find digital mental health services from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations.
  • Beyond Blue offers support services, programs, research, advocacy and communication activities as well as COVID-19 advice and information through the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.
  • Black Dog Institute is an independent, not-for-profit medical research institute designed to investigate mental health across the lifespan.
  • MindSpot is another free service for Australian adults who are experiencing difficulties with anxiety, stress, depression and low mood.

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