Mental health in the workplace: small steps to create an environment of support

Mental health in the workplace: small steps to create an environment of sup

If recent headlines have taught us anything, it’s that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about money, fame or success and can affect us all at different points in our lives, influenced by multiple factors. In Asia-Pacific, depending on country from 4 to 20 percent of the population suffer from a mental illness; this means your company is not immune.

However, as with any situation, there’s an upside. The stigma around this topic is going up in smoke as more people come forward with the challenges they’ve faced (for example, James Packer, Australian billionaire and head of Crown Resorts being the first leader to leave his post, stating mental health).

As the conversation gains steam, all companies, in all countries, need to  understand the importance of supporting mental wellness in the workplace. Companies that have implemented mental wellness programs are seeing its benefits when it comes to attracting talent, and saving money in the way of sick time, disability and turnover.

To see the impact of environment on employee wellness, Mind, a UK-based charity interviewed 15,000 employees from 30 companies. The study found  that creating the right environment has a positive impact on health, wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity levels.

Supporting your employees’ mental health doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your culture. In fact, there are small things you can do that will make a big difference.

Create a safe space

Foster an inclusive environment that allows people to be honest about stresses. To do this companies need a holistic approach, integrating essential programs that reduce the stigma and promote accessing support. This could include training managers in identifying and dealing with stressed employees, flexible working/ leave policies, education on managing stress, all underpinned by effective communication and awareness campaigns

A quick win can be to look for ways you can utilize and integrate your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) more effectively; this means ensuring your employees are aware and understand how it can be used. Many companies find using an outside consultant is the best way to ensure strategy and implementation match across an organisation.

Make sure treatment is covered

Many western countries began including treatment of mental illnesses in insurance policies in 2014, and Asia insurers are now following suit. Companies in Asia will need to actively ask for it, so revisit your global and local policies to ensure you provide the right level of coverage for mental health. Similar to your EAP program, start by assessing your current plan and ask for outside help to ensure coverage satisfies corporate requirements as well as the needs of your employees.

Going forward

The conversation about mental health in the workplace will only grow. Now’s the time for companies to address this critical issue. The ones that do will not only see healthier employees but a stronger bottom line and an increase in productivity, and performance.


Alice Harkness
by Alice Harkness

Principal, Employee Health & Benefits Asia, Mercer Marsh Benefits

Contact a Mercer consultant.