Creating Healthy Workplaces is Smart and Cost EffectivePosted on the 3/3/17 by Mike Davis
Over the last 6 months at Purposeful we’ve been really focused on sharing ideas about how businesses can benefit from clarifying their ‘why’. This is because we know that businesses with a clear mission are not only more likely to attract and retain talent, but also perform better when it comes to the bottom line too.
Still, developing effective purpose in your business is only possible when you first focus on another area that is fundamental to any workplace: the wellbeing of your people. Workplace wellbeing doesn’t just mean having clear anti-bullying policies and whistle-blowing protocols in place (although these are part of it).
Having a mentally healthy workplace means having an environment where your people thrive
Unfortunately, only half of Australian workers feel that their workplace is mentally healthy. An unhealthy workplace is not only conducive to problems like high levels of absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’; workplace stress can exacerbate or contribute to the development of mental illness. At Purposeful, we’re advocating for a change in the mindset and approach of workplaces to mental health.
The Purposeful Approach
A focus on wellbeing means your workplace emphasises values such as compassion and caring. It also means creating the right container and environment for these values to translate into reinforcing behaviours.
The Cost of Inaction
Unhealthy workplaces are incredibly costly and much of this cost is borne out of inaction or a lack of imperative to focus on addressing the right problem with appropriate solutions.
The Benefits of Action
By contrast, acting to prioritise employee’s wellbeing produces an excellent return on investment and helps to create a positive thriving culture.
Successful Action: Case Studies
Improving workplace wellbeing doesn’t necessarily mean taking drastic action. But it does require thoughtful planning and effective action. Dr. Isabel Zbukvic- Purposeful’s Wellbeing Advisor, provides a great example from her previous role.
While completing her PhD at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health (Florey), Isabel noticed very high stress levels among her fellow students, without much in the way of dialogue around how to manage long hours and large work demands.
Knowing that if students could improve their wellbeing at work they would do better science, she advocated for representatives from staff and student groups to complete training in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).
There are now multiple staff members trained in MHFA, which means that on any given day there is someone present at the Florey to offer support, who is trained on common mental illnesses as well as how to assist people in a mental health crisis.
They can also give guidance on how you might approach a colleague whose wellbeing you’re concerned about, or even if you foresee a particularly stressful period and need help to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Isabel says: “awareness that one of your peers can provide support and guidance in a time of need can profoundly change how you feel about coming into work.
“If you’re happy at work, you are more likely to be productive and remain committed to your role over time.”
A number of other workplaces have built mental health and wellbeing practices into the daily running of their business. Google headquarters in Sydney have a dedicated meditation room, where staff sit on cushions and practice mindfulness on a daily basis.
Employees at law firm Seyfarth Shaw take part in wellbeing seminars that have included on-site massages and nutrition advice. At the Florey, Isabel says “people are encouraged to pick up a pencil and do some colouring in, or have a go at a jigsaw puzzle, instead of heading out for a cigarette.”
However, one of the most powerful ways to improve people’s ideas about workplace wellbeing in your organisation is to simply:
Get the conversation going!
Isabel Zbukvic is Purposeful‘s Wellbeing Advisor.