Addressing mental health in the workplace

2/11/2015

As organisations seek to gain competitive advantage in a dynamic and ever changing business environment, talent development and retention are critical.  How you attract, develop and retain staff can be the difference between organisation excellence and extinction.

 

In recent years, we have seen developments in HR practices and policies that reflect this – carers and study leave, flexible work arrangements, job sharing….all are initiatives designed to attract skilled workers and promote innovation.  But one area remains hidden – mental health.

For Toni Williams, Diversity Manager at SEEK Ltd, Australia’s largest online employment marketplace, addressing mental health was critical.  “We know that up to 45% of Australians will face mental health issues over their lifetime,” says Toni.  “That’s an enormous number and it means that in most workplaces at any time, someone will be facing a mental health situation.  And yet, there is stigma around discussing it.  We talk about our physical health but treat mental health differently.”

Earlier this year, SEEK and Melbourne Business School’s Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre (APSIC) entered a research and training partnership.  With skilled trainers from the National Disability Service, over the past 8 months, training programs have been delivered to SEEK employees to raise awareness and also demonstrate that solutions are available, many of which are simple. 

“The response has been fantastic,” says Toni. “I’ve had people come up to me and let me know that they have been working silently for years with a mental illness and they feel that they can now talk about it.  And in many cases, it’s actually something that can take steps to support very quickly.  Whether it’s putting in place flexible work arrangements or to find additional support, or connecting them with professional support we know that by doing this, many people will get back to a place where they feel confident and able to manage their situation.”

The program is coupled with a research component led by APSIC Director Professor Ian Williamson.  “The research looks at SEEK’s existing HR policies, systems and practices and how they can be improved.  For me, this program has two important outcomes – improvement of HR practices and also a large organisation saying to its people that they matter.  We know that the culture of SEEK is already one of innovation. Their support for this program takes their workplace culture to a whole new level and cements their standing as an employer of choice.  The value in retention and attracting talent is immeasurable.”

SEEK launched its program, SEEKer SUPPORT , earlier this month to raise awareness of workplace support available to employees.

For more information, contact socialimpact@mbs.edu