Mentally Safe Workplaces – how managers, leaders and staff can develop them

Mental Health at work

RUOK? Are you okay? It’s a simple question. But it has the power to change someone’s day, and in some cases, save someone’s life. Checking in with colleagues and employees is a vital part of creating a mentally safe workspace and leaders today, more than ever, should be looking for ways to make sure staff are not suffering in silence.

In light of RUOK? Day this Thursday September 13, we wanted to highlight a few ways that managers and colleagues can create a mentally healthy workplace and remove the stigma of asking for help – after all, with around 1 in 5 peopleexperiencing a mental illness in Australia each year, it’s likely you, a colleague, a family member or a mate will be affected at some point in your lives.

Each year, approximately one in every five Australian’s will experience a mental illness – Mindframe, NSW

RUOK? Day is an excellent opportunity for workplaces to help address a problem that touches more people than you might think.

So, what can workplaces and managers do to encourage a mentally safe workplace?

Prioritise Mental Health in Your Organisation

Most organisations are likely to have workplace safety practices in place which highlight the importance of staying safe at work – but less workplaces can be found putting the same focus on mental health, despite the fact that 7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions each year (Safework Australia).

There are a multitude of different services and processes that organisations can put in place to make mental health a priority. Here at Chandler Macleod, we utilise All of Me, an E-Mental Health platform to help educate staff on the signs to look for in mates and work colleagues, and how to ask for help. But your organisation may choose to sit down and come up with some other strategies which will work within the context of your industry and workplace.

Prioritise Your Own Mental Health

Leaders are in the prime position for creating a culture which supports healthy mental work practices. Taking up flexible work offerings, leaving on time and creating reasonable working timelines are all things which leaders can do to maintain a good work/life balance and encourage workers to do the same. Of course, a certain amount of workplace stress is to be expected, but if you as a manager are often ‘burning the midnight oil’ you may want to take a step back and look at the message that is sending to your staff.

Have Open and Honest Conversations suggests that open and honest leadership is a key sign of a mentally healthy workplace. If staff are comfortable confiding in their managers if they are struggling, they are more likely to clear the air and allow some steps to be put into place to avoid issues culminating in excessive sick days or stress leave. Here’s a few suggestions for checking in with your staff:

  • Have regular 1:1’s where you share any stress you are feeling and what you do to destress

  • Offer the occasional ‘work from home’ day for staff to reduce the pressure of everyday life

  • Check in with employee’s workload to see if they are feeling overburdened or overstressed

  • Ask staff what would help them to manage stress during the work day

  • Encourage staff to take a break from their desk regularly, and go for a walk around the block to get away from the screen.

Start a Conversation

The primary way you can participate in RUOK? Day is by starting a conversation. It’s that simple. If you suspect a friend at work is struggling, ask them if they are okay. Listen to them and talk openly about how they could approach the issues they are facing – if they are comfortable. provide a range of resources to help workers start conversations within the workplace – they step through how to ask and what to do if they don’t want to talk. Opening the dialogue can be different – but if you change someone’s life, you’ll never regret taking the time to ask.

R U OK? Poster, start the conversation

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