The oracle: building mentally healthy workplaces through prevention  

Nearly two-and-a-half-million Australians1 2 reported experiencing severe psychological distress during the pandemic in 2021! The human cost of poor mental health on individuals and communities is staggering, particularly given that public health facilities are currently stretched beyond capacity and unable to cope with the demand for mental health services. In this context, workplace employee wellbeing services fill an important gap by offering solutions that can tide people over when they are struggling with their mental health.  

As hybrid work arrangements become the norm, how then can organisations ensure that their most important asset- their people – stay well, not just physically, but psychologically as well? Particularly in the light of the negative impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on employee mental health, it is imperative that organisations address any psychosocial risk factors in the workplace and address them in a concerted manner3.  

International best practice-based approaches4 to prevent negative mental health impacts at work involve a multi-layered strategy:  

  • Understand – identify and assess your workplace for psychosocial risks – ranging from job fit, workplace relationships, and workplace circumstances and patterns that may heighten risks for psychological injury.  
  • Support – offer person-centred and holistic care to your employees, not just in times of crisis, but by proactively building a culture that enables psychosocial safety and wellbeing. 
  • Empower – develop consistent mental health and wellbeing literacy across all levels of leadership within the organisation, as well as among the broader workforce in your organisation, to encourage a culture of trust, respect, empathy, and openness.  

Ultimately, organisations would do well to regard employees holistically – recognising that personal and professional stressors co-exist in the post-pandemic nature of work. While preventing negative impacts on employee mental health may not be a linear or simple undertaking, evidence-based practices that help to transform enterprise and employee wellbeing can help deliver significant savings to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars5, and eventually save countless lives.  


References: 

1 Bower M, Smout S, Ellsmore S, Donohoe-Bales A, Sivaprakash PP, Lim C, Gray M, Francis A, Grager A, Riches J and Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank, 2021. COVID-19 and Australia’s mental health: An overview of academic literature, policy documents, lived experience accounts, media, and community reports.   

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021. National, state and territory population

3 SafeWork NSW, 2021. Code of practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work.  

4 Wu A, Roemer EC, Kent KB, Ballard DW, Goetzel RZ, 2021. Organizational Best Practices Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace. J Occup Environ Med, 63(12):e925-e931.  

5 Australian Government National Mental Health Commission, 2019. The economic case for investing in mental health prevention.