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.