General

Improving mental health at work

Half a million dollars will go towards preventing mental illness in WA workplaces, the state government announced today.

The Mental Health Commission and The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Transformative Work Design have teamed up to progress and develop the Thrive@Work program.

Centre director Sharon Parker said the aim of the project was to support organisations to create productive workplaces that were mentally and physically healthy.

“The project is about taking the evidence surrounding creating mentally healthy work and putting it into practical guidance, tools, diagnostics, support and all those sorts of things to make it more accessible for organisations.”

Professor Parker said the focus in this area tended to be on workers who were already experiencing mental illness.

“What we’re arguing, which is just as important but often neglected, is that organisations should also be trying to prevent mental ill health from emerging,” she said.

“Our focus is about being more preventative and actually saying, ‘let’s create work that doesn’t cause stress in the first place’.”

Health Minister Roger Cook said: “With one in five of us experiencing mental health issues in any given year and the many hours we spend at work, it is critical that workplaces know how to create environments that help their employees thrive.”

Healthy workplaces are important from an economic perspective too.

A 2014 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found work stress costs Australian employers $10.9 billion per year.

These costs are believed to stem from absenteeism (people taking time off work), presenteeism (when people are less productive at work) and workers’ compensation costs.

“We know that workers’ compensation around mental issues in the work place is increasing, and that when people are off work for mental health reasons, they are off work for about three times longer, and their compensation claims are about three times higher than any other average claim,” Professor Parker said.

Mr Cook said: “Creating thriving workplaces is good for employees, good for the wider community and can reduce the impact of lost productivity on business.”

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