As discussed in the previous post “More-For-Less”, I talked about how safety has evolved over the past decade within workplaces across Australia and how our attitudes towards the safety of our employees has evolved into positive changes. Upon reflection of how far we have progressed with workplace safety, I came to realise of how important it is for businesses to follow a similar journey for the Mental Health & Wellbeing of our employees.
According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study, 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year. (source: State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia / TNS Global,)
This comprises of;
- $4.7 billion in Absenteeism
- $6.1 billion Presenteeism (when an employee is at work but is less productive than usual because of illness or injury)
- $146 million in Compensation Claims
The statistics actually send alarm bells off for me personally. Why? Well in many circumstances, employees that choose to not come forward to say they are not coping at work fall under the business radar.
- How many people do you know that have said “I am just so inundated with work at the moment, I just can’t face it today” and choose to call in sick? (Absenteeism)
- How many people do you know that have a consistent history of reoccurring illness and I’m not talking about “sickies”, I’m talking about honestly ill occurrences such as colds, flu’s, migraines etc.? (Absenteeism)
- How many people do you know are “present” at work in body but not in mind? (Presenteeism)
These are what we call “Smoke & Mirrors” and not from a business intention but from an employee choice of concealment. Why conceal? Reasons are always going to be different from person to person but here are some things to consider;
- An employee may not want to come forward to their leader that they are not coping for concerns loss of employment
- An employee may have raised concerns, received support but such support is in the form of peer replacement
- An employee may have raised concerns of them not coping and has not received support
- Company history may indicate that it is easier to replace an employee with another employee (peer) without addressing the real issue…the role / workload
Safety statistics in 2013 reported that workplace related injuries cost the Australian economy $60.6 billion each year.
Now you may say that a $50-billion-dollar gap between workplace related injuries and workplace mental illness would suggest that there isn’t anything to be overly concerned about and that we should maintain our full focus of the elimination of workplace injuries however I would disagree. Mental illness within our workplaces is the “sleeping tiger” if you like and if not understood or mismanaged then we may very well see workplace mental illness exceeding workplace related injuries. We need to undertake a paradigm shift in our way of viewing mental illness within the workplace and apply similar levels of energy as we have done in the past decade for safety.
Education, Prevention and Elimination of workplace related mental illness can be achieved if supported.