Here is part of a transcript of a speech given by Jennifer Westacott, Chair of MHCA, on 21 February 2014 dealing with Mentally Healthy Workplaces

” Let me start with the overall issue of mentally healthy workplaces.

Just to recap on why this is critical:

  • work is our pathway to economic and social wellbeing
  • it is our sense of dignity and purpose
  • at the most basic level, we will spend most of our waking hours there

But this is fundamentally an economic imperative and should be characterised as such. It is vital for productivity and innovation. Therefore it is vital for economic performance.

It’s not a ‘nice to have’, it’s a ‘must do’.

So a mentally healthy workplace ought to have the following characteristics

  • a place people want to be
  • a place where people can realise their full potential
  • a place that contributes to our sense of happiness

How do you, do we as a community, contribute to this?

Here are some practical things to think about. Most of these are just common sense.

Workplaces should be collaborative and engaging. There should be very clear structures for direct engagement, for feedback and dialogue and a sense of shared ambition for the organisation.

We should design jobs and workplaces to support a balanced approach to life to minimise unnecessary stress and to provide maximum flexibility and fulfilment.

Why should people commute in peak hour for long periods, adding to their stress, when technology allows a much more flexible approach.

Obviously, this is not easy in some sectors but, where we can, we should.

We should set clear goals and targets for people with respectful performance planning so people understand where they are heading and how they are tracking.

Those should take account, when possible, of people’s personal aspirations and ambitions. That is what they want to achieve in their life rather than the tasks they are expected to perform.

I am a strong advocate of encouraging people to have outside interests.

We need to look at our customs and practices and how they add to or create stress.

We need to remember that, at the most basic level, the poor management of stress will put employers at risk of claims.

For employees, the poor management of stress will lead to poor productivity, poor cultures and low morale.

Some things to think about:

  • how often are people on their emails on weekends. Some of Australia’s leading CEOs have a policy of not responding to emails on weekends
  • how do we give feedback and comment and avoid critical, often humiliating, practices
  • how do we manage structural change which is often essential, but so often is badly handled and can be crippling for some individuals
  • do you have an employee’s assistance program so that there is a very clear path for people to seek help

Finally, we should all have a zero tolerance to bullying. We, as leaders, should seek to eradicate it at every turn.

As I said, none of this is rocket science but I want to make the point that a decent place to work is a mentally healthy workplace.

A decent workplace is a creative and innovative one. So this is core business.

Lots of companies I represent are taking this more and more seriously but we need to remember, as I turn to providing the right environment for people living with mental illness, that some types of mental illness are preventable.

Creating better workplaces can remove one of the triggers or causes of mental illness or the more severe escalation of an existing condition.”

The full transcript can be read here HERE

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