At the November 2018 Breakfast with Business South West in Busselton our guest speaker Justin Harrison drew on his formal qualifications in Psychology and extensive experience in management and leadership and in delivering therapeutic programs addressing domestic violence, anger management and positive parenting to present an engaging talk on the very topical issue of mental health in the workplace. Justin’s presentation was very timely with mid-October marking Mental Health week and mid-November marking Psychology week both aimed at improving community awareness of mental health and wellbeing and helping us lead healthier, happier and more meaningful lives.

Justin is a Director and co-founder of The Nudge Group (formerly Nudge Psychological Assessment & Consulting) and the South West Employee Assistance Program (SWEAP). Nudge is an award winning small business having been named best regional small business in Western Australia in 2017 and best small business in the South West in 2018.

In his presentation Justin got the audience to think about what mental health really means, the signs of poor mental health in the workplace, how employees suffering from mental health issues can be supported in the workplace and what factors contribute to creating a healthy workplace culture. Amongst the many valuable insights gained from Justin’s talk were:

  • Mental illness is a leading cause of sickness, absence and long-term work incapacity costing the Australian economy an estimated $11-12 billion a year.
  • Mental health issues contribute hugely to “presenteeism” – being at work but not able to work to capacity.
  • Good wellbeing doesn’t make for good work – good work makes for good wellbeing!
  • For people living with mental illness, work can play an important role in helping their recovery.
  • Businesses that invest in the mental health of their employees attract and retain the best and brightest people.
  • Signs and symptoms of mental health and wellbeing include lateness, absenteeism, irritability & sudden uncontrollable emotional outbursts, deterioration in performance.
  • A workplace culture of wellbeing provides many flow-on benefits for individuals, businesses and communities.
  • Tips for building a mentally healthy workplace culture:
  1. Early and regular check ins – have the conversation, but approach carefully with respect to boundaries.
  2. Be supportive within your role as an employer – flexibility is valuable. No need to be the counsellor.
  3. Consider having an Employment Assistance Program – a PWC white paper indicates that for every $1.00 spent, employers can expect a$2.30 return in productivity, retention and reduced absence.
  4. Be aware of internal resources available (e.g. EAP programs, counsellors etc). Advise affected employees to seek GP advice.
  5. Play the long game. Most employees want to return to meaningful work but a graduated return to work should ideally be integral to any recovery plan.
  • A mentally healthy workplace culture is made up of 3 key interlocking factors:

  • Expectations of total role engagement/commitment can create a culture where having other things in your life outside work is frowned upon so can contribute to psychological stresses that can negatively affect employee wellbeing and productivity. A balance between roles is not only OK but vital!