Workplaces benefit by boosting mental health

More than 11,000 workers have benefited from mental health initiatives funded in the first round of grants under WorkSafe's WorkWell program, reducing absenteeism, and increasing worker retention, satisfaction and wellbeing.


Five programs which shared $3.3 million in round one funding through the WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund have now been completed.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the $25 million fund was part of the $50 million WorkWell program, which also includes an online toolkit and learning networks to connect, businesses and workers with mental health experts.

"Across the WorkWell program we're seeing positive trends among employers for improving knowledge, attitudes and confidence in identifying and addressing mental health issues; and practice changes in leaders, networks and workplaces," Dr Beer said.

The Mental Health Improvement Fund offers large-scale investment to organisations and industry groups to promote mental health and wellbeing, and prevent mental injury.

Round one projects include Working Well in Wellington, at Central Gippsland Health, which created a new health worker rostering tool that flags high risk schedules, such as inadequate breaks between shifts. The tool has since been adapted for other local workplaces.

Another project, the Arts Wellbeing Collective, created a series of mental health webinars with industry-specific advice and techniques. The sessions supported arts workers across 400 organisations to navigate change and uncertainty during COVID-19 cancellations and closures – with webinars accessed more than 1800 times.

Dr Beer said funded programs target vulnerable worker groups including young and ageing workers, frontline workers, and those in industries in transition.

"Working in partnership with industry means we're creating industry-wide, sustainable change to address the work-related factors that contribute to stress at work," she said.

"Round one programs have supported workers in 498 workplaces across the arts industry, call centres, shift workers, workers transitioning to parenthood, and workers in small to medium businesses."

"This is just the start – another 20 programs funded through second and third round grants are already underway, and we’ll be using evidence from across the WorkWell program to build a blueprint for mentally healthy Victorian workplaces."

Since its launch in May 2017, WorkWell has achieved extensive engagement, with more than 12,400 workplaces and 55,900 individual participants and the potential to reach 2.53 million Victorian workers.

WorkWell's Emerging Outcomes Report shows participating businesses are reporting favourable outcomes, including reduced absenteeism, increased likelihood of staff retention and increased job performance.

The report shows WorkWell's multi-pronged approach to intervention is also generating invaluable systems-level evidence for driving effective prevention of workplace mental injury.

Round one MHIF programs completed

The Arts Wellbeing Collective (Arts Centre Melbourne)

A program supporting mental health for workers in the arts sector, delivering workshops, resources and sector initiatives through a consortium of more than 100 Victorian arts and cultural organisations.

Mental Health Essentials Program (Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

A project providing free mental health training and consulting to assist small and medium sized businesses to support the mental health of young workers.

Perinatal Workplace Wellbeing Program (Centre of Perinatal Excellence and Transitioning Well)

A project supporting the mental health and wellbeing of expectant and new parents as they adjust to new work-life stages. The program operated across retail and construction industries.

Wellbeing on Call (SuperFriend and partners)

A collaboration between SuperFriend and five organisations: UniSuper, Sunsuper, Link Group, MLC Life Insurance, and Concentrix. The program developed user-driven mental health programs and resources for contact centre staff working in insurance and superannuation.

Working Well in Wellington (Wellington Primary Care Partnership and Central Gippsland Health)

A project to develop positive mental health strategies for shift workers in rural and regional areas, including a roster risk assessment tool. Human Resources team, shift workers and their families worked together to address factors that influence workplace mental health.