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What business owners and managers need to know when it comes to mental health

  • Written by Dr. Frank Chow, Director and Psychiatrist, 2OP Health

Business owners and managers carry the responsibility of providing a healthy work environment and looking after the wellbeing of employees. 

The challenge that business leaders often face is the fact that matters involving mental health can be difficult to detect as it can creep up and become familiar over time until it takes a heavy toll. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put employees under heightened pressure caused by uncertainty and anxiety in their personal and professional life.

Therefore, it’s imperative for business owners and those leading teams to understand the intricacies of mental health in the workplace. From identifying stress to recognising alarming behaviour, being one step ahead is pivotal for any organisation big or small to better manage mental health in the workplace and take action before it further develops.

Here are 5 things business owners and managers must know when it comes to mental health at work: 

  • Your workplace culture is pivotal

Your mental and physical health does not stand alone and will always be in effect of each other. Developing a healthy work culture that encourages employees to stay on top of their physical and mental health and wellbeing is the first step in preventing the occurrence of workplace related health issues.

  • Lead by example

Whether you like it or not, as business leaders, your employees will look up to you for advice and guidance on a daily basis. Lead with positive behaviours and attitudes by showing healthy lifestyle habits, displaying empathy and care, encouraging open communication, having your work/life balance and being a supportive mentor and role model will have a positive influence on your employees, yourself and will ultimately help the business thrive.

  • Be aware of the red flags and alarming behaviour

Whilst signs of stress and anxiety differ from one person to the next, understanding common behavioural changes in relation to these issues will help business leaders to look after their employees. Common changes in behaviour include increased interpersonal hypersensitivity, defensiveness, irritability, sarcasm, making inappropriate jokes, increased interpersonal conflicts, escalated bullying or even harassment behaviour. Variations in performance behaviours is also an indicator of a struggling employee and may include consistent work errors, poor punctuality, and carelessness.

  • Wellbeing check-up

Whenever behaviour change becomes apparent, business leaders should be able to offer their support by providing a safe space for discussion. Communicating with employees regularly to check where they are at and how they are coping is a good place to start. This can prompt an open discussion and encourage them to assess their behaviours. By offering reassurance to employees that they have a space to talk openly without judgement. Not only will it build trust, but also open doors to future conversations.

  • Offer your support to struggling employees and encourage them to take action

Depending on the severity of the situation, business leaders should offer support such as temporary time off or replacement. In more extreme cases, business leaders have to know when to advise employees to seek help from a GP, psychologist or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help them communicate their issues and receive the proper support and guidance to put them back on the right track. With better access to professional resources, employers and employees can benefit from early intervention and avoid the issues associated with allowing mental health problems to further develop in the workplace.

When it comes to mental health, prevention is always better than cure. Realising signs early on and taking actions to prevent it from developing in the workplace is key to resolving workplace mental health issues better in a more efficient manner.

About 2OP Health, 2OP Health is a unique Organisational and Occupational psychiatric service, specialising in workplace related mental health care, providing tailored support to individuals, organisations and health professionals across Australia with a focus on prevention, education, rehabilitation and structured mental health treatment plans.


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