Strategies to manage the top three mental health risks in the workplace.

A person’s mental health affects the way they function, especially in the workplace. Recently, Gallup Australia delivered its 2023 State of the Australian and New Zealand Workplace report. The findings in this report identified some worrying stats.

These include five out of 10 Australians are experiencing ‘a lot of stress’ at work, while 67% are ‘quiet quitting’ and only 20% are thriving.

To help counter these issues, below are some strategies that can help you manage various mental health risks in the workplace:

Stress – Nearly 79% of employees experience workplace stress, making it the most common mental health risk. Stress born out of conflict within the workplace can lead to headaches, for example, and long hours can lead to insufficient rest.

One management technique encouraged by experts is to observe transparency in the workplace. Encourage employees to bring up their concerns, such as impossible deadlines or uncooperative teammates. This will allow you to make the necessary changes to ensure a positive and productive working environment. If they’re new to the position or project, also grant them sufficient time to adjust to the workflow. Don’t expect big things on Week 1.

Burnout – Burnout has many causes but the two most common ones are heavy workloads and lack of control. Heavy workloads or unrealistic deadlines leave employees feeling overwhelmed. A lack of control over their schedule or assignments results in a sense of helplessness and quickly erodes employee motivation.

Organisationally, you can help prevent burnout with appropriate leave policies and allowing people to have some flexibility in their schedules or where they work. It can also pay to educate employees about personal strategies to manage their stress and energy by adopting smart health and recovery behaviours such as taking breaks, short walks, exercise, or breathing exercises. If employees are already suffering from burnout, understand that it is a legitimate physical and psychological condition and consider options to reassign them to lighter tasks and projects at least until they recover.

Presenteeism – Presenteeism is the act of coming to work despite being ill or distracted, resulting in a less productive day. According to management consultants, presenteeism usually happens when a company has limited or no paid sick days and unrealistic expectations for its employees.

To avoid this, establish and communicate clear policies. Let your workers know the amount of sick leave they have, and any other factors that can allow them to be excused from work. You can also avoid presenteeism by setting a good example. If you come to work when you’re sick, they may expect that they need to do the same.

Mental health risks in the workplace affect your business and employees at multiple levels, and as such, a layered approach to managing them by looking at policies, culture and individual education can help to avoid problems and secure your employees’ overall wellbeing and performance.

Health by Design’s proactive programs can help employers manage mental health and performance risks. From specialist executive programs to total population solutions, we help empower employees to better understand and manage their personal health, energy, and performance. Contact us to learn more.


Written for HBD International by Amy Copley.

Benefits of cutting back on alcohol

As July rolls around, thousands of Australians are going alcohol-free to raise money for those affected by cancer. The next 30 days can be a strong test of willpower, in what can sometimes feel like an impossible task of not consuming any alcohol. While raising awareness for Dry July is definitely its own reason to consider staying sober for the next month, there are many other benefits as to why you might consider abstaining from alcohol.

Cutting back on drinking is shown to have a myriad of health benefits on your body, giving your organs a well-needed break from alcohol consumption. The biggest benefit is liver relief, as alcohol contributes to both a buildup of fat in the liver as well as tissue scarring. The good news is the liver is incredibly tolerant, and when you stop drinking, alcohol-related damage is reversed and improvements are seen in a matter of weeks.

Regular alcohol consumption also impacts your heart health by slowing down your metabolism and increasing your cholesterol. Reducing your alcohol intake can significantly improve your cardiovascular health, as abstaining from alcohol can improve your blood pressure and reduce alcohol-related risk of stroke and heart disease.

Reducing alcohol can also decrease your risk of developing alcohol-associated cancers, with research finding links between liver, breast, colorectal, and esophageal cancer with alcohol consumption. Finally, research has shown that reducing alcohol intake can help with weight loss. This is because of the high caloric density of alcohol and the overconsumption of food (usually fast food and snacks) when drinking.

If the physical benefits weren’t enough, cutting back on alcohol has been shown to positively impact your mental and cognitive health. Neurologically, consistent heavy drinking has been shown to shrink the frontal lobes of the brain, consequently impairing thinking skills. Alcohol can also damage gray matter, a part of the brain responsible for processing information. Fortunately, however, this damage is reversible and the brain can completely re-heal the damage done by alcohol during periods of abstinence. Drinking can also affect mood, as alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Taking some time off alcohol helps you think with more clarity and handle any existing mental health issues in a much more positive way. In addition, not drinking alcohol can improve the quality of your sleep, which also contributes to improved concentration, increased energy levels, and better mood.

Another reason to consider cutting back on drinking is for the financial benefit. Even if one glass of wine or a bottle of beer feels like a small purchase on its own, if you drink frequently this cost adds up. Based on a 2020 survey, the average Australian spends around $1900 a year on alcohol ($32 per week). Even if this expenditure on its own isn’t enough reason, not drinking also means saving money on alcohol-related expenses, such as Ubers and taxis, and late night meals.

If you are thinking of cutting back on your alcohol intake but don’t know where to start, here are some tips:

  1. Write out your intentions and goals: Set limits with measureable guidelines. Decide the maximum number of drinks you want to drink per day and the maximum number of days a week you want to drink. Then ask yourself why? Is it for health or financial reasons, or to get better sleep? Consider how you can meet these goals and how to incorporate more alcohol-free days into your week.
  2. Identify your triggers and plan ahead: Work out why you typically drink – are you more of a social drinker, or do you drink more when you’re stressed? Identifying these triggers means you can develop coping strategies that don’t rely on alcohol.
  3. Find support: Share your goals with friends or family who can provide encouragement and hold you accountable. Even try to convince friends to join you in cutting back drinking.
  4. Explore alternatives: Find non-alcoholic beverages that you enjoy drinking! Whether it’s a mocktail, alcohol-free wines and beers, or other drinks that might satisfy your cravings.
  5. Choose drinks containing less alcohol: If trying to cut back, consider ways to choose less alcoholic drink options. This can look like mid strength beers, or ordering a small glass of wine instead of a large.
  6. Pace yourself: Sip drinks slowly, don’t chug them. Avoid getting refills and focus on drinking only one standard drink per hour to give your liver some time to metabolise the alcohol.
  7. Stay hydrated: Having a glass of water in between each drink not only keeps you hydrated but is an easy way to slow down your alcohol intake.
  8. Be kind to yourself! Cutting back on alcohol can be difficult. Celebrate small victories and focus on the positive changes. If you slip up, don’t give up.

Importantly, reducing your alcohol intake gives you a chance to reevaluate your relationship with drinking. While many people think they have a healthy relationship, research has shown many people underestimate how much alcohol they are drinking. Abstaining from alcohol provides you an opportunity to see what life looks like without drinking and reflect on the impact this has on your health, relationships, productivity, and whether alcohol has prevented you from dedicating time to pursue hobbies and interests.