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New study shows mental health being disregarded by employers


RESEARCH REVEALS EMPLOYERS UNAWARE OF OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE A PSYCHOLOGICALLY-SAFE WORKPLACE

Study conducted by Swinburne University for Readiness highlights employees’ psychological wellbeing as less important to employers.

A national study involving 1058 Australians conducted by the Swinburne University of Technology for Readiness, a workplace mental health and wellbeing platform, has revealed that Australian business leaders need to ‘lift their game’ when it comes to psychological wellbeing in the workplace.

The study concludes that psychological wellbeing comes after physical safety in the workplace, as only 40% of senior managers (including Directors, Heads of Department and Chief Executives) are aware of their obligations and the relevant legislation in providing a psychologically safe workplace for their employees.

Despite the study revealing that 60% of participants had peer support or wellbeing champion, only 25% of these employees can directly access the service. Blue-collar workers have scored lower on the psychological wellbeing culture and availability of wellbeing support systems, procedures and resources compared to white-collar workers. And Manufacturer, Administration and Health Care scored the lowest levels of psychological wellbeing, with Primary Production, Construction and Financial Services scoring the highest.

With lockdowns now lifted across the country and Australians are gradually returning to the office for the new year, it is more important than ever that these employees feel that their mental health and wellbeing is adequately supported in the workplace in a more proactive manner rather than reactive.

“One of the key findings was the discrepancy in perception between employees and employers regarding psychological wellness and support. It became clear when reviewing the results that there is a lack of initiative among employers to proactively employ mental health and wellbeing programs to support staff,” said Simon Kearney, Readiness Co-Founder and former St Kilda Football Club Sports Science Manager.

“These results are concerning and a wake-up call for business owners across Australia, particularly those small-to-medium sized businesses without an HR representative. If business leaders – no matter what sector they are in – don’t fully understand how to protect the psychological safety of employees, they risk not only harsh penalties, but also a less productive and well workforce,” he said.

“At Readiness, we regularly check in with employees to get feedback on the areas impacting employee wellbeing in the workplace. We then provide education and the tools for employers to respond to the feedback and to create a dynamic and psychologically supportive environment for their staff,” he continued.

Employees believe their organisations should be doing more to address psychological wellbeing as there is also a strong disconnection between the perceived and actual level of support.

Education amongst senior management and HR professional is imperative in providing effective support to staff as 33% of HR professionals weren’t aware of the relevant legislation with that number increasing to 48% when the organisation didn’t have a formal HR department. Additionally, the larger the organisation, the poorer the perceived culture is around psychological wellbeing. These results are ‘concerning’ and a ‘wake-up call’ for business owners, especially those small-to-medium sized businesses without an HR representative.

“Employers have a responsibility to their staff to ensure that they’re completely familiar with state legislation to protect their staff,” said Professor Greg Murray, Head of Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health.

Furthermore, individual employee demographics can also have an impact on this perception. Males perceive their organisation is doing more than females, older employees scoring their organisation’s psychological wellbeing culture lower, and fixed-term contract employees having the most positive perceptions of an organisation’s support for wellbeing, compared to casuals and permanent employees.

Readiness is a scientifically-backed online platform helping businesses and schools support the mental health and physical wellbeing of employees, teachers and students. It is a tool to help employers reduce health risks and improve mental health and wellbeing within businesses or schools.

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