Prioritising mental health in the workplace.


16th October, 2019

Smiling Mind at work: Addressing mental health in the workplace

Mental health in the workplace is of increasing importance for business owners and their employees. Learn how Smiling Mind and MYOB are working to make a difference in all our lives today.

The state of mental health in Australian and New Zealand businesses leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Recent research undertaken by MYOB revealed nearly a third (31 percent) of Kiwi small to medium business owners reported experiencing a mental health condition since starting or taking over their business.

Of those who have been affected by a mental health condition, more than half (59 percent) said they experienced depression, while two-fifths (41 percent) said they had anxiety.

More than a quarter (27 percent) of those surveyed say stress from their business has a large to extreme impact on other aspects of their life and relationships, while just seven percent said stress had no impact.

And we know these sorts of numbers about mental health are evidenced across the board, with only minor variations from region to region.

As a result, MYOB has established a philanthropic partnership with Smiling Mind to help turn these statistics around.

You may have heard of Smiling Mind’s free app (which has already been downloaded over four million times), but they also have a world-leading education program for kids and even run workshops for corporates, teaching people how to take a positive and proactive approach to their mental health.

“What was once the dream of two passionate founders with a vision to support young people to develop the skills needed to support good mental health throughout their lifetime, is now a leading force globally in positive pre-emptive mental health care,” said Smiling Mind’s chief executive, Dr Addie Wootten.

“Just as regular physical exercise supports robust physical health, a regular mindfulness practice supports robust mental health as mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, increase the ability focus, improve decision making, develop increased empathy and improve relationships to name just a few benefits.”

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MYOB country manager Ingrid Cronin-Knight said small business owners tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform, maintain their business, pay staff and earn a living, which can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.

“Owning and managing a small business can be extremely demanding and lonely.

“Putting in long hours, skipping meals and cutting back on sleep to get things done can have a significant impact on the body and the mind – leading to greater stress, anxiety and depression,” she said.

Clear benefits for managing mental health in the workplace

The opportunity is obvious: if even a small percentage of business owners can be convinced to take mental health more seriously, there will be tangible benefits for them, their staff and potentially a much broader segment of society as even their customers start to feel a difference.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your workplace value the importance of work/life balance?
  • Do you provide employees with any flexibility and agency over how they work?
  • Do you encourage two-way feedback?
  • Do you actively provide employees with encouragement and acknowledgement?

Wootten highlights some of the many issues that can arise when mental health challenges aren’t taken seriously within the workplace:

  • Presenteeism – “Being physically present at work but not functioning optimally. A lack of awareness and sensitivity to mental health issues at work increases the likelihood of presenteeism as individuals believe that they are less likely to progress in their careers if it is known that they suffer mental health challenges.”
  • Increased sick days – “People experiencing mental health challenges can end up experiencing burnout, a serious state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, as well as a worsening in mental health and/or physical illness resulting in an inability to work at all.”
  • Reduced morale – “If other team members need to take on greater workloads as a result of a colleague becoming unable to work due to a mental health condition this can increase the risk of other employees experiencing stress increasing their risk of developing their own mental health challenges.”

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For the above reasons, Smiling Mind demonstrates the value for business owners and managers to get proactive about mental health, and Wootten suggests some straightforward ways of getting started.

“Make mental health a priority by providing education for all staff to raise awareness and ensure that managers and staff are open and responsive to mental health issues within the workplace,” Wootten said.

“Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, which educates participants about common mental health issues, how to intervene and how to support people showing signs of mental health difficulties, is a place to start.

“When employees are struggling with mental health difficulties, make adjustments to their work as necessary and, if possible, provide access to psychological support.”

Armed with the above information, MYOB has formed a philanthropic partnership with Smiling Mind to focus on raising awareness of preventative mental health opportunities to enhance wellbeing and performance for small business owners.

“We’ve been moved by community members at recent MYOB events who have shown the strength to share their personal experiences and who have provided a catalyst for open and honest conversations about the importance of mental wellbeing to them and their clients,” said Cronin-Knight.

“MYOB is fortunate to be part of a community that cares deeply about the success and wellbeing of its members and the hundreds of thousands of small business owners they support.

“We look forward to a fruitful partnership with Smiling Mind.”

Download the free Smiling Mind app and try a meditation. Better yet, commit to setting aside time each day to meditation – check out these tips to get you started.