The majority of employers strive to create a mentally and emotionally safe and healthy work environment. However, if employers are not aware of the circumstances that can give rise to an unhealthy work environment, risks for unhealthy situations can occur.

It has been found that approximate 45% of Australians will experience some form of mental health stress during their lifetime. As such, it is very likely that stress caused by either the workplace environment or personal issues, will affect the individual’s workplace productivity and attendance.

In an effort to develop regulations and guidelines to assist employers in creating healthy workplace environments, the Work Health and Safety Act of 2011 was brought into action. The Act states that business owners have an obligation and legal responsibility to promote healthy work environments.

To help maintain good working conditions, employers are encouraged to implement the following healthy habits within the workplace;

  • Workload control
  • Supervisory support
  • Cooperative co-worker relationships
  • Positive recognition
  • Remuneration incentives
  • Consistent structure
  • Defined purpose

When employers take the time to create and maintain the above characteristics within their workplace environment, employees have a greater ability to thrive both mentally and emotionally.

However, when an employer does not promote an atmosphere that encourages a well-controlled workload, or provide employees with the necessary supports to work efficiently and effectively, a host of issues can arise, including;

  • High rates of absenteeism
  • Poor work quality
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • High rates of turnover

Each of these issues represents a loss in both productivity and workplace moral, causing both profitability and personnel to be put at risk. The mistakes that employers most often make that increase their likelihood of an unhealthy work environment include;

  1. Poor internal management
  2. Prolonged periods of staff shortages requiring additional hours or work responsibilities
  3. Overload of work responsibilities
  4. Any form of harassment; including bullying or sexual
  5. Traumatic events that go unaddressed
  6. Workplace violence

Early intervention is the key to catching and reducing mental health issues and risks amongst employees. It is extremely important for employers to remain aware of the stress levels of the workplace and the needs of their employees. There are very specific signs that an employer can be watching for to help institute early intervention strategies. These signs include;

  • Increased absences
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Lethargic attitude
  • Social withdrawal

When an employer notices one or more of these symptoms appearing for an employee, or several employees, it is time to take corrective action. An employer should consider putting these strategies into place to assist employees in coming forward to identify and address any mental or emotional work related health issues they are experiencing.

Firstly, all managerial level employees should be trained in identifying the symptoms of work related mental or emotional stressors. In addition to this, employees should have a designated managerial contact within the workplace to whom they can speak to regarding giving notice of any work related emotional or mental stressors.

All employers should have specific policies and procedures in place to document employee reported stressors, and employers should do a periodic assessment of their particular risk factors. It is important to properly inform employees on how to identify their own stress factors and manage them. This information can be provided either via an informal session or alternatively in writing.

During the course of routine performance reviews or discussions, it is important give positive feedback and request the employee give their opinion regarding the work environment positives and negatives

If an employer is willing to take the time and give proper attention to mental and emotional risk factors they can significantly reduce the risk of legal actions related to stress and/or safety violations. Additionally, by implementing this employee mental health issues can decrease dramatically. By introducing some basic health oriented strategies, an employer can ensure less absenteeism, reduced turnover rates, increased productivity, and create an overall stronger work force.

In the event that you find yourself in need of such assistance, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.