On the 8th September for RU OK? day, our Brisbane team went offline during lunch, to spend time with each other and discuss mental health in the workplace. We had a terrific conversation, around how we could all play a role in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Here were just some of our key conversation points.
How can we define mental health?
As explained by Beyond Blue, “mental health” is about wellness rather than illness and our potential to cope, to be productive, to contribute – it is about what is going well, not merely the absence of a mental health condition. As a work community, if we can develop a better understanding of what “mental health” means and how to achieve it, we can further:
- contribute to preventing mental health conditions;
- better support those who are experiencing a condition; and
- encourage openness, fostering a workplace culture this is diverse and inclusive.
Key question – are you in the < green (low stress) – blue – yellow – orange – red (high risk) > zone? We can develop greater self-awareness of our “stress thresholds” to assist us in better monitoring our mental health. Poor sleep, lack of exercise, or a stressful day at work may take us from being in the green zone (feeling energetic and rested) to the blue or yellow zone (where we may start to feel disorganised, unfocused, and lack energy). Every person is different. Identify the things that “boost” you to the green zone, which are particularly important to re-engage when you are in the warmer colour zones.
What part do I play?
Better mental health can be promoted through what are called “protective factors”. Protective factors, according to the Department of health, “give people resilience in the face of adversity and moderate the impact of stress and transient symptoms on social and emotional wellbeing“. Protective factors can be innate (biology and genetics), environmental (working conditions), and are also influenced through access to social support (social environments, the availability of opportunities, and access to health services).
The workplace can offer protective factors against the development of mental health conditions. Protective factors can include:
- building a psychosocial safety climate
- managing change effectively
- fostering supportive relationships (with our supervisors, with our teams)
- anti-bullying policies
- organisational justice
- ensuring effective training on the management of interpersonal conflict and effective leadership
- recognition and reward for work
Key question – what are you doing to protect your mental health, and what can you do to foster a healthy workplace? Whether you are a CEO, team leader, or team member we all can play a role in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Indeed, if we look to strengthen the social support available within our workplaces, we can make a real difference.
How do I offer support?
RU OK? believes in the power of conversation, and encourages us to reach out to those we care about. We may notice a friend isn’t behaving as they normally would, or that they seem out of sorts. We may not be sure how to start the conversation – we may be worried that it will be awkward, or that they might brush us off. We talked through the steps recommended by RU OK? in preparing for and having a conversation around mental health. As a group, we practiced how we may start a conversation and shared experiences and tips on phrasing, to feel more comfortable with the process.
Key question – do you know about RU OK? day? Head to https://www.ruok.org.au/home to access some useful resources and read about this initiative.
If you or someone you know is needing crisis support, contact LifeLine on 13 11 14.
Kaitlan Laurie – Organisational Development Consultant