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October 9, 2019

How employers are prioritising mental health in the workplace

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Mental illness impacts one in five Australians each year. By creating a workplace that supports mental health, employers are not only limiting the impact mental illness can have on productivity, but you’re also demonstrating that all employees are cared for and valued.

For Mental Health Week 2019, seven of WORK180’s endorsed employers share how they’re championing mental health in their workplaces, and the policies, strategies and resources they have in place to do so.

Barwon Water – ‘mental health first aid officers and early intervention’

The Victorian water utility has implemented a number of policies and initiatives that prioritise mental health, believing that a happy and healthy workforce is an engaged and productive one.

Such efforts include helping employees understand common mental health problems, creating a culture of early intervention and implementing strategies to prevent the workplace from being a contributing factor to mental health issues.

Barwon Water also has a number of accredited mental health first aid officers who are trained to provide mental health first aid, in the same way physical first aid would be administered. At the Geelong head office, there’s also an onsite, multi-purpose mindfulness room that allows employees to take some time out if needed.

Microsoft Australia – ‘REAL Mates: A mental health peer support program’

Microsoft Australia is another employer championing mental health and wellbeing. Recently, on R U OK? Day, the technology giant added to its existing mental health services with the launch of ‘REAL Mates’, a mental health peer support program.

A REAL Mate is a peer at Microsoft Australia that employees can contact when they’re seeking help. The program provides a safe, judgement-free way for employees to discuss, in confidence, any challenges that they might be facing.

So far, 10 employees have become a REAL Mate, trained and accredited in advanced mental health training by the Heart On My Sleeve Movement. More employees will follow soon.

KPMG – ‘training for real conversations about mental wellbeing’

Employing over 6,000 people in Australia, KPMG acknowledges that many of its employees will be affected by mental illness, either directly or indirectly, at some point in their lives. Because of this, the professional services firm aims to engage and empower its people to understand and manage mental health, and remove the stigma surrounding such issues.

One of the ways KPMG is doing this is by also partnering with the Heart On My Sleeve Movement, co-creating a program that provides coaching and learning experiences to its employees on how to facilitate and have real conversations about mental health.

Powerlink – ‘suicide prevention and encouraging people to speak up’

The Queensland electricity provider recognises that the health and wellbeing of its employees is vital to business success. It offers a number of services to support their mental and physical wellbeing – from prevention to management and rehabilitation.

One such initiative is the MATES in Energy program, which is an offshoot of the MATES in Construction program. Launched at Powerlink on R U OK? Day in September 2018, MATES in Energy is a suicide prevention program tailored for those who work in the energy sector, both in the field and office.
A key part of the program’s success is the presence of trained and easily identifiable employees (a.k.a. connectors) who can listen, support and connect people to the right help.

"I volunteered to become a MIE connector because I genuinely care about helping others, whether that’s through some difficult times or supporting them to achieve their goals. Most importantly, I want people to know that I am here and I am willing to help in any way that I can," Kahlia Steele, Manager Project Management Office.

Cisco – ‘creating a culture that supports mental health’

Cisco takes its employees mental health seriously, and is committed to creating an environment where employees and managers are equipped with the right tools and information to help create an open, safe and supportive workplace.

This support is meaningful for Stephanie Norris, Talent Acquisition Manager – ANZ Sales.

“As a person with anxiety, I’m so proud to work for Cisco where mental health is as important as physical health,” she says.

“Cisco are committed to promoting mental health awareness, reducing stigma and providing an enhanced support model through its #SafeToTalk initiative.”

Toyota – ‘driving a culture where management become advocates of mental health’

While Toyota has long had policies to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of its employees, it’s currently implementing a number of specific measures directed at mental health, including a long-term mental health strategy.

One practical application the car manufacturer has put in place is partnering with a group of psychologists to upskill management. Toyota believes strength in leadership is crucial to driving change around mental health, explains Senior Health & Wellbeing Compliance Coordinator, Andrew Akhnoukh.

“In this program, leaders develop evidence based skills to effectively identify and address mental health concerns in the workplace,” he says.

“Additionally, leads are provided with the opportunity to understand and implement strategies that aim to promote overall mental wellbeing at Toyota.”

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services – ‘reducing the stigma around mental health’

Exposure to potentially distressing scenes is a working reality for a firefighter, making mental health management particularly important. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) run a number of initiatives that focus on prevention and early intervention for mental health issues.

For Mental Health Week, QFES is encouraging its members to have open conversations about managing mental health, talk to its network of Peer Support Officers and attend a fatigue management session.

“One of the greatest challenges we face is reducing the stigma associated with mental health. It affects us all in different ways,” says QFES Acting Commissioner, Mike Wassing AFSM.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.