How can psychological health affect your performance at the workplace?

Risk Matters - Autumn 2023

Picture of Anill Goman

Anill Goman

LGIS People Risk Consultant

Anill Goman is a People Risk Consultant at LGIS, providing counselling, mediation and critical incident support to members. His role involves collaborating with our members and exploring ways to reduce the risk of psychological injuries at work.

Mental health issues are increasingly prevalent throughout organisations; 1 in 5 Australians are diagnosed with a mental health condition every year (such as depression, anxiety and substance use).

It takes a toll on the workplace with 1 in 4 workers taking time off for mental health related issues in the past year. Mental health issues strongly impact both a person’s quality of life and their performance at work.

Mental health challenges can adversely impact a person’s mood, thinking, behaviour and physical health. This in turn can impact daily function and ability to perform work and everyday tasks.

Some of the common harmful effects of mental ill-health include:

On workers
  • Decreased cognitive functioning (ability to focus, learn, reason and problem solve)
  • Lowered self-confidence
  • Difficulty socialising
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Lowered energy levels
  • Decreased self-regulation capabilities
  • Increased risk of physical health issues

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On the workplace
  • Decreased productivity and work performance
  • Lower engagement among co-workers
  • Social avoidance and decreased communication with internal/external stakeholders
  • Increased conflict with co-workers
  • Lower team morale and cohesiveness
  • Possible inability to carry out work due to physical issues

It’s clear that the personal impacts of mental health issues can lead to problems at work. It’s difficult for someone to perform their best while struggling to cope with a mental health issue. Being constantly fatigued, depressed, anxious, isolated, and lacking confidence can lower the quality of work and may lead to interpersonal and team issues in the workplace.

Table 1.1 Overview of how individual mental ill-health can be present within the workplace

Do you know

  • It is estimated that untreated mental health issues cost Australian workplaces $10.9 Billion per year.
  • 91% of people believe having a mentally healthy workplace is important.
  • Workers who believe their workplace is an unhealthy workplace are less likely to disclose that they have mental health issues, seek support, or provide support to a colleague with mental health condition.

What can we do to support worker’s mental health in the workplace?

Although the impact of workers experiencing mental health challenges is significant, the good news is that workplaces can take steps to reduce and even prevent this impact. Research has shown that a mentally healthy workplace provides many benefits to a person’s mental health including increasing sense of accomplishment, increasing self-confidence, providing a sense of meaning, and an opportunity for social engagement.

What are my legal obligations?

The Work, Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) (WHS) stipulates that workplaces must take all reasonable steps to eliminate (where possible) or mitigate (if elimination is not possible) any psychosocial (mental health) hazards in the workplace. To do this, workplaces need to be well-informed around the impacts of mental health (both personal and work-based), ways of improving mental health in the workplace, and methods of reducing the risk of psychological injury in the workplace.

To facilitate a mentally healthy work environment, employers are encouraged to:

  • Show their commitment by educating all staff on the positive behaviours that support their mental health, assisting managers on steps to identify and mitigate psychosocial hazards, modelling positive mental health and behaviours.
  • Ensuring that as an organisation there are policies and procedures that align to support psychological safety.
  • Know the signs of mental health challenges and intervene early. If a staff member displays signs that they are struggling with their mental health, organise a time and private place to speak to them about it. Use R U OK? as a guide and ask how you can support them.
  • Make sure that all staff know the support options available to them and are equipped to use services or encourage others to do so if they notice mental ill-health. Make information on services easy to access with posters and flyers in staff areas.
  • Equip managers to implement simple adjustments such as flexible work hours, providing tasks they feel more comfortable completing, and adapting the physical work environment, to support staff who are struggling. And reduce the risk of psychological injury.
  • Support recovery and return to work. If a worker is psychologically injured in the workplace, workplaces are
  • legally obligated to support their recovery and return to work.It is important to consult with workers around how you can support (within reason) their return to work.

For more information on how LGIS can assist, please contact [email protected] or your regional risk coordinator.

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