The other week Better Being hosted a lunch for HR Directors about how to create workplaces that promote the mental wellbeing and resilience of employees. We had some of Australia’s leaders in wellness, including Sarah Wilson and Dr Roy Sugarman, who shared their insights in how to create a positive wellbeing culture in the workplace. 

Workplace stress and mental health is the number one issue facing your workplace today. A recent report conducted by PWC on behalf of BeyondBlue found that workplace stress costs Australian businesses $10.9 billion a year. This is calculated based on absenteeism, presenteeism and workers compensation. It does not account for employee retention, engagement, management time, etc. The report also calculated that one in five employees currently suffer from a mental health condition. Someone with even a moderate mental health issue would lose 200 hours of work a year, closer 700 hours of work for severe conditions. The report also found that for companies who invest in preventative strategies they receive an average return on investment of $2.30 for every dollar spent. This is calculated by increases in productivity and fewer claims cost. It can be much higher depending on industry, for instance mining is calculated to be closer to $6.80! 

So is your workplace doing enough to promote a healthy culture, one that focuses on building your mental resilience? 

I have spent the last few years working with some of Australia’s largest companies strategising on how we can create sustainable healthy workplace culture. I find that just about every workplace acknowledges the need to address this issue, however only some are prepared to invest in overcoming it and very few are having much success in getting the engagement of their employees and executives into the strategies they develop. 

Cheap gym membership, free lunchtime workshops, flu shots, EAPs or health assessments are only a small piece of the puzzle. A successful wellbeing strategy must go much deeper than that. The most successful strategies I have seen focuses on two key elements, leadership and self-efficacy. Employees need to genuinely feel that their employer is invested and supportive of them in achieving physical and mental wellbeing. 

Our thought leaders or as we like to call them our ‘Agents of Change’ delivered some valuable concepts on how we can create workplace environments that promote the mental wellbeing of employees. 

Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar, spoke of how sugar is toxic to our brain function. She gave examples of people who had quit sugar and as a result had all but overcome their mental health issues such as Depression and Anxiety. Her own battle with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease, was impetus for her embarking on the sugar free journey with much success. She declared the need to create workplaces that focus on wellness rituals, making healthy eating accessible and remove the sugar filled vending machines. 

Dr Roy Sugarman, a clinical neuropsychologist, spoke of the undeniable mind body connection. The need to create workspaces that inspire employees to want to take part in healthy practices. For instance forget treadmill desks,if you simply convert your smelly and drab stairwells so they are bright,cheerful and uplifting, you can almost guarantee more people will start taking the stairs rather than the elevators. He gave other terrific examples of workplaces that offered onsite gym facilities but had very low intake until the company CEO declared the organisation will part subside the cost for employees to receive regular personal training. 

Ben Thompson, CEO of Employment Innovations, spoke of the importance of employees feeling respected and valued in the workplace. He spoke of the need to acknowledge that people are at different levels of engagement with the organisation and as a result we should formulate strategies that address each level. We need to create rewards programs that can provide immediate benefits/recognition so the employee feels valued today, not in 6 months. He suggested we even look to the Yanks to see what they are doing, because they are leading the way in this area. 

The best way to create your wellbeing strategy is to start with what your employees want, then assess the key issues facing your workforce, and give them what they need by packaging it up the way they want. Your wellness strategy should then be promoted by those at the top of the organisation and focus on giving your people the tools they need in order to take control of their own wellbeing. The strategy must be more than ticking the box to say yes we address that, you must invest in and reward your employees for their positive behaviours. A successful wellbeing program will have your employees highly engaged with your organisation and allow them to thrive in today’s working environment, benefiting your organisation culturally and financially. 

How does your employer support your wellbeing and mental resilience?