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Are You Having the Wrong Conversations About Mental Health at Work?

BY Michelle McQuaid

With almost seven out of every ten workers (68.5%) currently feeling like they are burning out at work, it’s reassuring to see most workplaces (79.1%) are now regularly providing mental health programs. However, with only one-third of workers that feel uncomfortable talking about (31.9%) or accessing (33.1%) mental health programs at work, is this the best form of workplace support?

New research released by The Wellbeing Lab and The Australian HR Institute suggests that it’s time to broaden the conversation in our workplaces from mental health to wellbeing. For example:

  • Wellbeing conversations feel more inclusive.
  • Workers were more likely to feel comfortable talking about wellbeing (76.2%) than mental health at work. While workers continue to fear the loss of work opportunities if diagnosed with a mental illness, wellbeing is widely accepted as a fluid state that rarely attracts career-limiting repercussions as it ebbs and flows.

  • Wellbeing programs offer more holistic support.
  • Workers were more likely to feel comfortable accessing wellbeing programs (73.5%) than mental health programs at work. The holistic focus of wellbeing programs across workers’ physical health, social health, and mental health allows them to focus on the factors that feel safe and valuable to them.

  • Wellbeing strategies can be addressed through a systems lens.
  • While caring for our mental health is often a very personal journal, our wellbeing perceptions, experiences, and behaviours spread through a complicated web of social connections at the Me (individual workers), We (leaders and teams), and Us level (whole workplaces). Applying a systems lens to workplace wellbeing strategies means rather than primarily focusing on workers’ self-care, leaders and workplaces also take responsibility for the psychosocial hazards and wellbeing support they are providing.

Notably, workplaces who often provide Wellbeing Programs and occasionally provide Mental Health Programs were statistically more likely to have higher levels of worker job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological safety, and performance. Clearly, this is not a recommendation to never talk about or provide mental health programs in workplaces. Rather, it is a strong suggestion that the time to broaden and balance our conversations in workplaces has arrived.

How are you balancing your workers’ preferences for mental health and wellbeing tools and support at work?

For a full copy of the research report, please click here.

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