Workplace stress is defined by the World Health Organization as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope”, and elaborated that it can be caused “by poor work organisation (the way we design jobs and work systems, and the way we manage them), by poor work design (e.g., lack of control over work processes), poor management, unsatisfactory working conditions and lack of support from colleagues and supervisors”.
Most people at some point in their lives have experienced or are currently experiencing work-place related stress or mental health related disorders. For employees the main struggles relate to coping with poor managerial and workplace practices, excessive workloads, expectations to do more with less and interpersonal conflicts. These factors alone or in a combination are associated with mental illness or can exacerbate an existing mental health condition.
The result can include reduced performance, incidental ‘mental health days’, extended periods of time off work, workers compensation claims and in worst case scenarios permanent disability. The relationship between mental health and the workplace are intrinsically linked, many employers assume mental health issues develop outside of the workplace, however increasingly employees are spending more and more time at work with the workplace contributing or worsening depression and anxiety disorders.
Mental health disorders are not just exclusively for the marginalised members of society, the most recent study published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, additionally it is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces in the range of $10.9 billion per year compromising of $4.7 billion in Absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism (Presenteeism is when an employee is at work but is less productive than usual because of illness or injury) and $146 million in compensation claims.
Prevalence rates of mental health conditions vary from workplace to workplace and by condition: Below are some of the latest figures
- Overall prevalence of mental health conditions is high in the financial and insurance sector with 33 per cent of people experiencing a mental health condition.
- Anxiety conditions are most prominent in the IT, media, financial and insurance industries
Mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations, however the successful implementation of mental health action plans can substantially reduce the burden. From an employer level an integrated approach to mental health and well being draws on evidence and principles from the areas of work health and safety, public health, psychology and psychiatry.
From an employee level incorporating strategies and action plans into daily life can significantly impact on employee productivity. Small changes such as
- Exercising– Move more every day. Exercise reduces natural stress hormones such as Cortisol and releases endorphins to help improve mood and sleep quality.2.
- Consider supplements- Supplements including Magnesium and Omega 3 fatty acids are believed to reduce stress and anxiety
- Reduce Caffeine- Caffeine is a stimulant and in high doses can cause heart palpitations and increase anxiety
- Spend time with friends and family– Working is great but prioritising work life balance is important. Creating and maintaining personal relationships achieves a sense a belonging and self-worth.
If you or anyone around you are currently experiencing mental health issues the following foundations are available for support.
1. Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
2. Black Dog Institute – https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
3. Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
4. Headspace – https://headspace.org.au/