22% of Aussies blame workplace for depression and other mental health issues

woman on bed upset
An inappropriate workload is one of the key reasons people face mental health issues at work. (Source: Getty)

Almost a quarter of Australian employees said their workplace contributed to or exacerbated their mental health condition last year.

Both overloading workers and not giving them enough to do were major contributors to mental health issues, according to the SuperFriend report.

Low recognition, referring to a lack of positive feedback and failing to reward employees for doing good work, also took a toll last year.

Inadequate change management, which refers to poor communication while businesses go through changes, was another top cause.

Other issues flagged by the surveyed workforce included:

  • Poor management support: Basically, not enough or poor guidance from your boss

  • Low job control: Having few opportunities to take initiative and perform your job as you see fit

  • Poor role clarity: When you are unclear about what the job entails and what’s expected of you

  • Poor workplace relationships: This includes bullying and discrimination

  • Poor working environment: This includes noisy, open-plan offices and other unpleasant or unsafe workspaces

  • Traumatic events: Exposure to violence or trauma and not having the support to get through it

“More workers than ever before believe their mental health condition is related to their

workplace,” Sandra Surace, workplace mental health and well-being consultant at SuperFriend, said.

Surace said COVID clearly contributed to poor mental health in workplaces last year.

“Australian workplaces have been forced to adapt since COVID,” she said.

“The majority of workers have experienced a major workplace change, and major changes in workplaces contribute to increased work-related mental health conditions.”

How employers can help

Interestingly, when it comes to employers implementing strategies to support employees, almost 30 per cent preferred targeted mental health support ahead of the 12.9 per cent who valued flexible working hours.

The report noted the top three preferred targeted mental health supports that the 10,000-plus workers surveyed valued were:

  • Offering mental health days

  • Providing mental health workshops

  • Providing internal or external mental health support options such as counselling and employee-assistance programs.

People surveyed also noted that supporting employee through bouts of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues was also found to be good for business, according to the report, with mental illnesses costing Australian employers almost $11 billion each year.

Surace said that workplace mental health was about more than providing counselling and supporting days off.

She said that while there was no 'one right way', leaders who adopted a proactive and consultative approach with their teams were more likely to see positive outcomes.

"Workplaces need to have mental health and wellbeing at the heart of strategic planning to improve work process and practices for everyday wellbeing, safety, and positive mental health," Surace said.

"It's about a holistic approach to preventing harm and managing risk, promoting the positives and supporting people in need."

“That is especially important as industry muddles through a talent shortage."

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