Stress is the human body’s natural response when one is dealt with challenging situations and high levels of mental and emotional pressure. Large levels of stress over extended periods of time can cause detrimental effects on one’s mental and physical health; their wellbeing, relationships, work and general enjoyment of life (Health Direct Australia, 2015). Within today’s Australia it is extremely common for full-time employees to experience high levels of work-related stress and, according to Safe Work Australia (2013); “more professionals make claims for mental stress than any other factor, and a third of these claims are due to work pressure” – this is no small issue.
Small levels of stress can be seen to increase productivity however large levels of prolonged stress can lead to mental and physical illness and exhaustion (Mental Health Foundation, 2015).
Furthermore; it has been recorded by Beyond Blue (2014) that 21% of Australians have requested leave from work in the past twelve months due feeling “stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy”. It is also stated that whilst 91% of Australian employees believe that mental health within a workplace is of importance, only 52% believe that their place of work is truly mentally healthy. This shows that there is an extremely large proportion (48%) of employees who do not regard their workplace to be beneficial to their mental health; exposing an extremely pressing issue when taking into consideration that depressive disorders are predicted to be the leading cause of the global burden of disease by 2030 (World Federation for Mental Health, 2012).
Using these facts and statistics as a basis it is safe to claim that there needs to be immediate intervention by Employers and Organisations to address and lessen the prevalence of this issue of mental health.
This article will investigate into effective ways in which businesses, organisations and employers of large scale teams alike can address such pressing issues to decrease their prevalence and, from a business perspective - increase productivity, efficiency and profitability.
Many employees – office workers in particular – are at risk of very sedentary lifestyles as, due to their line of work, they are required to remain seated for a large portion of the day. This may have detrimental effects on an individual’s wellbeing as a sedentary lifestyle is known to correlate to an increased risk of various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, higher risk of developing mental illness, weight gain and overall degradation of health (Rimmer, 2016).
The obvious way to counteract or, at the very least decrease, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle is to participate in regular patterns of physical activity. Regular physical activity within individuals can lead to many great physical rewards on the body; these including weight control, a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the strengthening of muscles, improved respiratory function and an increased life expectancy (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2015). There is also seen to be a strong correlation between exercise and the improvement of mental health. A study by Guszkowsa (2004) has proven that many aerobic exercises are extremely capable of reducing levels of anxiety and depression and an overall negative mood. Some of these exercises may be jogging groups, yoga classes, fun runs, after-work sports teams and/or competitive exercise regimes with positively reinforced goal-achievement. The formulation of these types of health, exercise and sports groups is becoming ever more popular within society, so why can we not bring them in as an engaging, yet mandatory practice within our workplaces? These exercise regimes and health groups can be led by registered health professionals, or may even have a voluntary employee take up the role of organiser or director – increasing the engagement and satisfaction of employees.
Self-help materials are shown to be very helpful in assisting the improvement of mild to moderate depression, anxiety and panic (Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, 2016). These materials may include free pamphlets or booklets that educate the reader about the signs of anxiety and depressive disorders and offer advice on how an individual can independently counsel and manage their thoughts and emotions. As employers and leaders, one cannot begin to know or understand the mental stresses or ailments that your employees deal with daily, and on the other hand, as employees these issues are generally wanted to be kept private as they may be extremely personal, potentially detrimental to one’s professional image, or may also cause discrimination amongst a work team. Taking this into account it can be extremely helpful and encouraging to place free self-help pamphlets within a workplace so that individuals may have a means of independently seeking out help, and are supported and encouraged to do so.
Counselling services offer an effective means to release and alleviate stress and built up emotions within an individual; they allow an individual to take time out of their day to
approach the issues within their life that are affecting them on a physical and mental level and attempt to overcome them or manage them; overall stimulating personal growth. Counsellors within workplaces are highly qualified to address and assist a multitude of personal issues from anxiety and stress to other impeding situations in one’s life. These situations may include, and are not limited to; family and relationship issues, substance abuse and addictions, sexual abuse and domestic violence, absenteeism, career change and job stress (Navare, 2008). It is stated by Navare (2008) that the implementation of professional counselling within a workplace can bring about a decrease in costs related to turnover, burnouts, absenteeism, as well as improvements in the performance of employees and thus lead to an increase in productivity.
With the statistics discovered it is very clear to see that the issue of mental health within Australia is rising and subsequently this increases its prevalence within the workplace. Within 2015, symptoms of anxiety were stated to be at the highest level ever recorded within the last five years (Australian Psychological Society, 2016) and during the 2004/2005 tax year there was a reported $133.9 million that was paid in benefits towards Australian workers who had claimed matters of workplace stress (Better Health Channel, 2016).
It is known that with an increase in employee health, wellbeing and employee productivity comes a decrease in costs associated with workplace health issues. It is said that “medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent” (Baicker et al, 2010).
The time for organisational intervention is now, be it through engaging training, implementation of health and fitness groups or studios, mental health and self-help workshops, counselling services; you name it. It is time to stop focusing purely on increased profits at the cost of high turnover and low staff-productivity and morale, and start focusing upon high employee engagement, increased staff morale and overall perceived happiness – leading to more productive and efficient work teams which will, ironically enough, lead to the original goal of higher profits!
Should you wish for effective assistance by experienced high performance leaders in matters of personal or staff wellness please write to us for a confidential consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.happinessplatform.com.
Masters of Public Health
Public Health Officer at Populis