Mental Health In The Workplace

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1 in 6 Australians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Regardless of the severity of the condition, your mental health can be either a positive or a debilitating force on you and affect your ability to be productive.

In many cases, your work and workplace can also become a significant source of stress, severely impacting on pre-existing mental health conditions of yourself and your colleagues. If you are in a high-pressure situation or environment, you might liken it to a pressure cooker; too much heat, and you might have a bit of an explosion on your hands.

Suppose you work while suffering from poor mental health. In that case, you may exhibit signs of presenteeism, poor productivity and a higher likelihood of exiting your profession (leading to higher turnover rates for your employer).

That being said, there is no obligation on your part to inform your employer of your mental health condition if it does not affect you and your performance of your role. Many of us experience low levels of anxiety, stress or depression in our day to day lives and can perform adequately regardless. However, you will need to tell your employer if or when your mental health condition:

  • It affects how you carry out your job requirements – this will allow your employer to identify reasonable adjustments to assist you in performing the role regardless.
  • It affects the health and/or safety of you and your colleagues
  • Is affected or could be affected by the nature of your work – failure to disclose a mental illness may disentitle an employee to workers compensation should they suffer any recurrence, aggravation or exacerbation of a preexisting mental illness.

Though you may be tempted to pull a sick day on a day where your mental health isn’t 100% (and it might be the right solution to your particular mental health situation), you can also discuss with your employer (if comfortable with doing so) ways in which you can adjust your duties within reason and benefit from remaining there.

Individuals frequently identify work as providing several important outcomes, including a sense of purpose, acceptance within society, and development opportunities. It may play a pivotal role in a person’s recovery from mental health difficulties.

Concerned About Someone In Your Workplace? 

If you have noticed that things seem amiss with a colleague or even your employer, it’s essential to check in regularly with them. By having regular, informal conversations with your colleagues and employer, you build a sense of belonging and connectedness within the team. It also makes it easier for you to notice changes in behaviour that might not otherwise be expressed vocally, and having an informal relationship based on regular and casual conversations can make it easier to share “difficult” conversations with you.