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Mental health in the workplace

Creating a mentally healthy work environment is good business. Find out what mental health is and how your business can benefit.

What is mental health

Mental health runs across a spectrum from poor to excellent. This will be influenced by many things, eg family or work stress, fatigue, physical health conditions, and trauma.

Sometimes people will feel good, like they’re functioning and coping well. At other times they will feel not so well and less able to deal with stress or setbacks.

Sometimes feeling less well, or experiencing mental distress, may come with a diagnosis of a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.

Mental health and mental illness (external link) — Wellplace

Mental health in New Zealand

Experiencing mental distress is common. That means, as a business owner, you will need to support an employee through experiences of mental distress or poor mental wellbeing at some time.

In 2018, the Health Promotion Agency published a report (from data collected in New Zealand during 2016) indicating that:

  • Thirty per cent of people surveyed had personally experienced mental distress
  • Two-thirds (67%) knew someone who had experience of mental distress – in three quarters of cases they were a family/whānau member
  • Forty per cent had worked with someone with mental distress.

Wellbeing and mental distress in Aotearoa New Zealand: Snapshot 2016 (external link) — Health Promotion Agency

Nearly half of New Zealanders will meet the criteria for a diagnosis of mental illness at some stage during their lives.

Nearly half of New Zealanders will meet the criteria for a diagnosis of mental illness at some stage during their lives.

One in five will receive a mental health diagnosis in any given year.

Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand mental health survey (external link) — Ministry of Health

Business benefits

Businesses that invest in building and maintaining good mental wellbeing report higher productivity, sales and customer satisfaction.

Here are a few reasons why creating a mentally healthy workplace is good business.

Mental wellbeing is a valuable business asset

When people are healthy, they can cope with the day-to-day stresses of life. This allows them to work and interact in a positive way. That’s when they can reach their full potential.

Minds do the heavy lifting

Healthy minds are more creative, innovative and solutions-focused, giving your business a competitive edge in the modern workplace.

Mentally well workers are more productive

Happy, satisfied workers who enjoy being at work are less likely to take time off, suffer injuries, and leave for another job, saving on sick leave and recruitment and training costs.

Recruitment can be easier

A workplace that’s known as a good place to work, with a healthy workplace culture, finds it easier to recruit and retain the best workers. This can reduce costs and boost productivity.

It’s as important as physical health

Employers are more likely to recognise the risks and effects of physical health conditions than mental health conditions. But employees experiencing mental distress are the main reason for lost work time, and sick leave can be used to help them look after mental health issues, such as burnout and stress.

It’s a legal requirement

Managing health and safety risks associated with stress is the law. Sick leave must be granted to allow employees to care for their mental health, as they would be to care for their physical health.

Employers’ mental health legal responsibilities (external link) — Wellplace

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