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Mentally healthy workplaces lift productivity and retain staff

Nearly half of Australian workers have left a job because of concerns it was contributing to poor mental health, according to a new study released by beyondblue.

A new survey of over 1000 Australian employees has ranked a healthy mental environment as the second most important consideration for workers looking for a job.

It also found that more than one in four workers (28 per cent) had left a job because they found it deleterious to their mental health. A further 17 per cent had left more than one job because of mental health concerns.

Beyondblue chairman, Jeff Kennett, told Dynamic Business that creating mentally healthy workplaces would lift productivity and have positive flow-on effects for business owners regardless of the size of their operations.

“If a small employer running a fish shop was employing two people and those two people didn’t like the attitude or the environment in which they were working, they could become very disenchanted very quickly,” Mr Kennett said.

“They would be less productive… their disappointment and their stress would flow on to their customers.”

Mr Kennett said that smaller operators didn’t have to spend money to improve mental health in the workplace. They could make progress simply by talking to their employees. He cited the example of a mother who had to drop her children off at school at 8 in the morning and found it stressful making it to work by 9am.

“If the employer or business manager knows that this lady has those obligations, why not suggest starting at work at 9:30? Little changes can make a lot of difference.”

Mr Kennett said that too many Australian businesses lacked adequate mental health policies, but noted they were critical in retaining staff.

The survey, conducted for Beyondblue by Instinct and Reason, found 31 per cent of workers identified pay as the most important factor in taking up a job. In second place was mental health with 14 per cent listing it as the most important factor. A further 11 per cent listed the ability to discuss things openly while eight per cent listed reward and recognition as the most important factor.

Other findings show that:

-) Women are more likely than men to leave a job due to a poor mental health environment.

-) Younger workers are more likely to leave due to mental health concerns. While 58 per cent of people aged under 40 have done so, only 27 per cent of those aged over 60 have acted similarly.

-) Overall, seven in ten workers believe mentally healthy workplaces are important when looking for a job.

A recent report compiled by PwC also found that for every dollar invested by businesses in creating a mentally healthy environment, they received a return on investment of $2.30 on average in benefits.

The PwC report found that about 45 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 experienced a mental health condition at some point in their life.  The industry with the highest rate of mental health problems is the finance and insurance sector, with 33 per cent experiencing a problem of some kind.

Australia’s leading employment site, Seek, told Dynamic Business it was “passionate” about supporting those with mental health issues in the workplace.

“Employers already do so much to accommodate physical health, we feel mental health should be no different,” said Seek’s HR director, Meahan Callaghan. “In fact, new research shows that job seekers consider mental health in the workplace second only to pay as the most important factor in finding a new job.  This shows that the implementation of effective workplace mental health programs is crucial for any business to establish itself as an employer of choice in both recruiting and retaining the best staff members.”



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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly is a writer for Dynamic Business. He has previously worked in the Canberra Press Gallery and has a keen interest in business, the economy and federal policy. He also follows international relations and likes to read history.

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