Show leadership commitment for workplace mental health as a small business owner
Learn why leadership commitment is vital to creating a mentally healthy workplace.
The WorkWell Toolkit provides
Practical step by step ideas, tips and suggestions to help employers of different sizes prevent mental injury and create a safe and mentally healthy workplace. Use tools, templates and resources to focus on work-related factors that impact mental health and learn good practice. Check out the full range of topics on the Toolkit.
How this helps your business
When leaders communicate and show their commitment to creating a mentally healthy workplace and act as positive role models for change, there is a positive flow on effect to the workplace culture and staff in the organisation.
Leaders are responsible for setting the organisational vision and strategy and play a critical role in fostering the change process through their commitment to financial, human resources and systems required to successfully implement change.
Leaders are key to the success of this change. This page will help support leaders with the practical steps they can take to positively influence workplace culture and create a mentally healthy workplace.
Key stats and facts
is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
PwC PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, 2014
of employees think that lack of appropriate skills held by managers is a barrier to improving workplace mental health and wellbeing.
of employees think that lack of commitment at the very top of the organisation is a barrier to improving workplace mental health and wellbeing.
Learn more on this topic
Mentally healthy workplaces are workplaces that people look forward to attending, are open to individual needs and are flexible and supportive of each other. Everyone has a role to play, both in looking after their own mental health and creating a mentally healthy workplace, however the development of such workplaces comes from the top.
The mental wellbeing of your employees can enhance personal and organisational resilience and success.
Watch the video below to understand the responsibility of businesses in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
Identify areas for improvement
Business owners and leaders are in the strongest position to communicate, drive and influence positive change across the organisation and there are many ways in which you can show your commitment to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
In this step, take the time to review your mental health strategy and what you are currently doing to get a full picture and understanding of your ability to influence change. Collaborate - talk to your staff and ask what they are doing well, what opportunities there are to improve, and what the priorities are.
There is a strong link between the mental health of employees and the broader culture that exists in a business and why it is important to have an up to date Workplace Mental Health Strategy. If you don’t currently have one in place, or would like to review your existing one to identify any gaps then please refer to the how-to guide below developed by Heads Up. Also refer to WorkSafe’s work related factors page below, to better understand how these factors can affect an employee’s mental health.
Use the following list to review the extent to which you are positively influencing change and identify areas for improvement.
have an endorsed mental health strategy and actively support its implementation
communicate the benefits of a mentally healthy workplace and what this looks and feels like in your business
role model the values and behaviours that are expected, and reward others for doing the same
create a culture where learning from mistakes and failure is acceptable
inspire trust within people
communicate openly, honestly and frequently using multiple channels
identify resistance to change and actively address this across the organisation
actively support the identification and management of work related factors that impact mental health
provide useful and constructive feedback to improve work performance
encourage and promote good mental health policies and practices
provide opportunities to develop professionally
create a sense of cohesion within work teams
reward and give recognition for good work
Show leadership commitment
Watch the video below developed by Heads Up to give you some further insight into the importance of a leader's role in creating mentally healthy workplaces.
Make a list of actions you will commit to over the next 3-6 months or longer. Your approach may be different to another leader's approach based on your unique perspectives, experiences, skills, characteristics and relationships with your teams and that’s ok. The important thing is that leaders are genuine in the approach they take.
Prioritise the actions based on the level of importance and effort needed and decide who needs to deliver each action. For example, the owner may show their commitment at a business level by endorsing and committing resources to implement a mental health strategy. Team leaders may show their commitment at a team level by creating forums for sharing problems similar to peer support groups. Your mental health strategy will help you to prioritise actions.
Utilise the simple template below to finalise your Leadership Action plans
Support your leaders
Individual leaders are better equipped to build a mentally healthy workplace culture when they have the necessary capacities, skills and mindsets to drive change. Recent research by WorkSafe and KPMG shows that to be an effective leader in creating psychological safety in the workplace you need to practice and role model the following:
How we conduct ourselves and use our authority to remain lawful, honest and maintain respect.
The language used by leaders sets expectations for employees and helps build cohesion in teams.
A mindful and attentive leader displays a compassionate and non-judgemental approach to leadership.
Leaders who are open and willing to discuss mental health will be in a better position to address concerns from team members when they arise.
Stigma refers to negative opinions, thoughts and emotions. Leaders with non-stigmatising approaches are better equipped to identify signs of mental illness and support team members to access support services.
Trust and Vulnerability
When a leader shows vulnerability, it opens up the possibility of positive and genuine work place relationships. This will create a space for honest conversations and build trust with your employee to speak up.
Growth mindsets increase workplace engagement and openness to giving and receiving feedback.
Leaders who can identify how their behaviours, emotions, and stress levels at work affect the people around them will help them in building supportive working relationships.
The self-care and culture actions in the toolkit have some great tools to further support leaders on how to practice self-care and implement a workplace culture where employees thrive.
Update your resources
To effectively drive change you need to have up to date tools and resources in place.
Three common resources that support organisations in creating mentally healthy workplaces include:
Policies and Procedures
Examples include Code of Conduct, flexible working arrangements, leave policies, bullying and harassment and reward and recognition policy and procedures.
Performance and Development frameworks
Examples include a performance and development framework to include regular documented conversations and feedback between staff and leaders, identifying and supporting staff training needs, and providing professional growth opportunities.
Training programs, health and wellbeing programs, mentoring and coaching programs, and additional support programs such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
These resources and practices reinforce leaders' actions by providing a framework for implementing change. They also create a standard of practice for what is expected across the organisation and contribute to a feeling of organisational justice. The sense of being ‘treated fairly’ and having ‘equal opportunities’ is incredibly important in creating a mentally healthy workplace culture and organisation-wide policies, procedures and programs help to establish a level of consistency of expectation across the organisation.
Read Heads Up ‘Nine attributes of a healthy workplace’ in the card below, which highlights some of the practices we have just discussed. Have a read through for further tips and initiatives that you can implement in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
Review and keep improving
It's now time to review how the actions as identified in Step 3, are contributing to success and being received by employees across the organisation.
Use the checklist at Step 2 to once again ask:
How well have our leaders shown their commitment in the previous 3-6 months?
What have our leaders done that’s been most noticeable?
What actions have been most and least effective?
Were there any actions that didn’t work well?
In which areas could they improve?
What’s most important to focus on in the next 3-6 months?
Be sure to share what you learn across the organisation - regular communication about what your organisation is doing to build a mentally healthy workplace culture is critical for ongoing engagement and behaviour change.
WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund – Wellbeing on Call: Leadership
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