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Workplace Mental Health Summit 2021 Sean Hall with Alexia Houston

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Workplace Mental Health Summit 2021 speaker Sean hall interviews Alexia Houston, Head of Insurance and Risk at Clayton Utz.

Tackling the stigma of mental health in the workplace is one of the biggest barriers that need to be addressed in order to overcome and address the crisis.

According to the WHO: 

  • Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems.
  • Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
  • Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
  • There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also benefit productivity.
  • For every US$ 1 put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.

There are many risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment. Most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work. For example, a person may have the skills to complete tasks, but they may have too few resources to do what is required, or there may be unsupportive managerial or organizational practices.

Risks to mental health include:

  • inadequate health and safety policies;
  • poor communication and management practices;
  • limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
  • low levels of support for employees;
  • inflexible working hours; and
  • unclear tasks or organizational objectives.

An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of governmental legislation, strategies and policies as highlighted by the European Union Compass work in this area. A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees. An academic report from 2014 suggests that interventions should take a 3-pronged approach:

  • Protect mental health by reducing work-related risk factors.
  • Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees.
  • Address mental health problems regardless of cause.
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