Managing Mental Health at Work

Talk the talk and walk the walk – it’s time to have a conversation and act on mental health in the workplace

Sydney, 27 March 2019

Christelle Chardin, Talent & Culture Manager at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth speaking at the Managing Mental Health at Work workshop.

Image: Christelle Chardin, Talent & Culture Manager at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth speaking at the Managing Mental Health at Work workshop.

It’s crucial for employers to go beyond conversations and take practical steps to address mental health issues in the workplace. The recent Managing Mental Health at Work workshop hosted by JobAccess and Sofitel Sydney Wentworth (JobAccess alumni partner) threw light on the current scenario of mental health in Australian workplaces, and the long-term benefits employers can realise from a mentally healthy environment.

Mental health problems are a common part of life and, therefore, the workplace.

Daniel Valiente-Riedl, General Manager at JobAccess, spoke about the prevalence of mental health conditions in Australia stating that nearly half of us experience some form of mental health problem in life.

“Improving mental health in the workplace is not only important for employees but also impacts the organisation’s productivity and profitability. Nine out of ten employees believe working in a mentally healthy workplace is important, while mental ill-health costs Australian businesses $10.9bn annually,” he said, citing a PwC report on mental health in the workplace.

There is little doubt managers come across mental health issues in the workplace at some stage, and the case for proactive management is strong.

Employers can learn from the experiences of other workplaces.

Christelle Chardin, Talent and Culture Manager at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, explained the impact of their Employee Wellbeing Program. The Program was formed by a Wellbeing Committee comprising of frontline, middle and upper management staff when the organisation noted an increase in the number of employees who identified as living with anxiety and depression as well as a rise in mental health-related leave days.

The Program includes:

  • An Employee Assistance Program that provides access to free counselling.
  • Access to flexible working arrangements, such as working from home.
  • A wide range of wellbeing resources and workshops on diverse topics such as chiropractic, sleep and nutrition.
  • A nutritious menu designed for staff by the hotel chef.
  • Partnership with fitness and Pilates providers.

Christelle also spoke about the organisation’s use of mindfulness in helping manage mental health. “We talk a lot about mindfulness, so we started a meditation class for our staff to experience,” she said.

Employers can learn from the experiences of people living with mental health conditions.

Guest speaker, Katie Price from Beyond Blue, teaches law at university and has worked as a lawyer in Sydney and The Hague in corporate and social justice roles.

Sharing her experience of living and working with bipolar disorder, Katie said “Australia is good at saying 'we need to have the conversation around mental health' but aren't yet good at having it. Approaching the conversation with empathy and understanding is a good start.”

Apart from having an open dialogue with her employer, Katie shared some of the practical supports she received:

  • Flexible working arrangements, such as working four days for extended hours instead of five regular-hour days.
  • A Return to Work plan included a buddy and a mentor, regular supervision and monthly check in with HR.
  • An experienced, understanding and flexible manager.
  • Access to the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Being able to apply for and undertake paid leave when required.

Employers do not have to go on their own. JobAccess is here to help.

In conclusion, Daniel encouraged employers to tap into the expertise and free support available through JobAccess. It includes:

  • Speaking with a JobAccess Adviser for expert and confidential information tailored specifically for your workplace needs.
  • Accessing the JobAccess Employer Toolkit, a practical resource covering all aspects of disability employment including mental health.
  • Applying for workplace modifications and adjustments funded by the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund.
  • Organising on-the-job training and support for managers, staff and people living with mental illness. The Employment Assistance Fund provides funding of up to $1,500 per annum to employers for each eligible employee to conduct training at the workplace by a reputable organisation and delivered by qualified professionals with specialist expertise.


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