Developing your strategy to improve mental wellbeing at work

By Charlotte Hooper, Business Partnerships Manager, Business Accelerator, Generali Employee Benefits

Whether you’re a HR manager, Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) manager or Captive manager there’s no escaping the fact that mental health is a key factor in managing the health, productivity and profitability of any organisation.  Poor mental health across the workforce drives costs related to presenteeism, absenteeism, and health and disability claims.  Since psychological wellbeing at work is a relatively new field of study, knowing where to begin and how to develop an effective mental health strategy is a key challenge.  Generali Employee Benefits (GEB) is an expert in risk management and has partnered with leading providers of mental health services to help support global organisations. In this article we will address the issue of mental health at work and how we can support you to initiate a mental health strategy.

Why mental health matters in the workplace

Psychological health has long been a major issue. It is estimated to cost the global economy US$1Trillion annually in lost productivity related to depression and anxiety, and approximately US$2.5Trillion annually for poor health related to all mental disorders and subsequent productivity loss.1  A 2019 national poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that mental health stigma is still a major challenge in the workplace with approximately half of all workers worried about raising concerns over mental health issues, and more than 1 in 3 concerned about retaliation or being fired if they seek mental health care.2

The COVID pandemic has brought the issue of mental health to the foreground.  Organisations were forced to examine their overall health risk management strategy, not only related to the physical risks of illness, but also the psychological risks related to global upheaval and the radical changes in daily life, including working life. Employees working remotely were confronted with new levels of stress and uncertainty magnified by their indefinite isolation from co-workers. Employees working in physical office settings, warehouses, factory environments, or interacting with the public faced additional fears over risks related to their physical safety.  Managers faced new challenges in managing teams and work performance. And everyone has faced ongoing concerns about long term job security, and overall global economic and health security.

A new urgency and opportunity with the ISO45003 guidelines

The heightened focus on mental health issues has created a new urgency and opportunity for organisations to address the issue more holistically.  The coming introduction of an international set of standards around mental health in the workplace (the ISO45003 Guidelines) presents a framework for employers to take action and make significant improvements in employee mental health.  The new guidelines will be published in summer 2021 and will include suggested analysis of several factors for possible change across organisations to improve and manage overall psychosocial risk among employees.

“I believe the pandemic has pushed the agenda of mental health in the workplace forward by about five years. The new ISO standards couldn’t be more timely since many corporations are seeking clear guidance on their mental health approach.   GEB has proactively partnered with FlourishDx, a leading provider of mental health risk management services, to help organisations implement the new guidelines and support their overall mental health strategy,” Daniela Masters, Head of Global Health & Wellbeing Programmes, GEB.

FlourishDx provides a number of tools to help companies adapt the ISO 45003 guidelines to their organisation including:

  • Step-by-step ISO 45003 implementation guidance that organisations can use to help adopt the ISO 45003 standard and provide ongoing measurement against this for assurance purposes;
  • A Work Design Survey to identify issues related to psychological hazards (such as workload, autonomy, role clarity and conflict, reward and recognition etc) that can be completely customised to the needs of the organisation;
  • E-Learning modules for employees and employers to engage the entire organisation in education on psychological hazards (that contribute to psychological injuries and burnout) and dialogue around mental wellbeing.

These tools from FlourishDx help organisations align with key requirements of the standard such as consultation and participation of workers, actions to address risks, awareness, and monitoring/measurement/analysis/performance evaluation.

“In the past, organisations have typically placed responsibility on employees for managing their own mental wellbeing, however we know there are many factors related to the design and management of work that significantly impact employees’ ability to remain mentally healthy and productive.  For this reason, improving mental health at work must be a collaborative effort between employees and employers.  The ISO 45003 standard and the supportive tools offered by FlourishDx will provide employers with a framework to identify and understand psychological risks in the workplace, and develop strategies to address these,” Jason van Schie, Managing Director People Diagnostix and Founder of FlourishDx.

Take Action Today

Employers can visit to conduct their own workplace mental health audit and begin identifying areas of potential risk and need for improvement in mental health management across the organisation.  The mental health audit tool is available free of charge from FlourishDx.


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