The importance of resilience in building mentally healthy workplaces

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Did you know that mental illness is the leading cause of work related sickness absences and long term disability worldwide?[1] In 2011 mental illness eclipsed musculoskeletal problems as the leading cause of disability support pensions in Australia, accounting for close to one third of all DSP claims and cases. Poor mental health and wellbeing has a profound physical and psychological effect on people’s lives and livelihoods and has been increasing each year for over a decade. While the effects on individuals can be life altering, poor employee mental health also has a large effect within an organisation emotionally and financially. It has been estimated that in Australia alone, depression and anxiety costs the economy more than $12 billion per year, primarily due to lost or diminished productivity and high instances of staff turnover.

Why is employee mental health important to a business?

Establishing a mentally healthy workplace is beneficial to businesses on a multitude of levels. With up to one in six Australian workers experiencing a mental illness and many more experiencing high levels of stress, businesses can no longer afford to overlook the benefits of establishing mechanisms to improve the mental health of their employees. Businesses will be able to increase productivity, reduce turnover, reduce costs associated with staff absenteeism and reduce workers compensation claims. In fact, the South Australian Mental Health Commission has established that for each dollar invested by a business into employee mental health and wellbeing, an average return of $2.30 in equivalent benefits is seen by an organisation.

What defines a resilient person?

The resilient individual is someone who is able to maintain good mental health and productivity in less stressful times, as well as during times of stress or adversity. At a workplace resilience can relate to employees’ ability to manage anything from workplace injuries, travel, tough workload to frustrating colleagues. Individuals with greater resilience have been shown to manage stress more effectively, which is a risk factor for exacerbating conditions such as anxiety and depression. It is important to understand that resilience is much more than simply coping. Resilient people are also highly flexible, able to adapt to new and different situations, learn from their experiences, are generally more optimistic and ask for help from fellow employees.

What are the characteristics of an unhealthy workplace?

Unfortunately, even resilient individuals can be pushed past their emotional and wellbeing limits by workplaces that are consistently toxic and unhealthy workplaces. It is important for organisations to be introspective and honest in their assessment of themselves and look at ways they can improve their own way of doing things and remove issues that are detrimental to employee wellbeing levels, these include:

What are some tips for increasing personal resilience and wellbeing at work?

It is important to remember that the most resilient individuals aren’t the ones that don’t fail, instead they are the ones that fail and learn and thrive because of it. Fifty years of research has shown that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone. Some factors to help build personal resilience include:

What are some research based strategies for a mentally healthy workplace?

The mental health of a workforce can be positively influenced by minimising the impact of known workplace risk factors and maximising the impact of protective factors. In order to create a more mentally healthy workplace, strategies are needed at the individual, team and organisational level.

By fostering an environment of open communication, mutual trust, support, relative freedom and enhancing staff knowledge of resilience building techniques and engaging in social and emotional learning programs designed to increase individuals’ ability to cope with stress more effectively an organisation can greatly increase staff happiness, productivity and ultimately their financial bottom line.

There are many benefits associated with encouraging healthier employees and workplaces. Employsure are a like-minded company that mainly deal with employment and work health and safety legislation, however, they have some additional tips on how you can improve your workplace. Visit Employsure.


[1] A framework to create more mentally healthy workplaces: A viewpoint. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 1–9, pg 1.
[2] LaMontagne et al., 2010
[3] http://samentalhealthcommission.com.au/wp-content/uploads/wkpl_train_2016.pdf



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