‘The Human Values’ - A Mentally Healthy Workplace

May 13, 2022

Tim O'Brien - CEO

It may surprise you, or it might not, that 48 per cent (or one-in-two) of Australian workers believe their workplace is mentally unhealthy. (1)

That bald statistic from The Work Wellbeing Project (Safe Work Australia) must surely leave any alert business or project manager wondering about the views of their people – and their leadership. 

“How many,” they might wonder, “how many here think this place is ‘doing their heads in’? Surely not one-in-two…?”

That same Project also surveyed organisational leaders. Unremarkably, their responses sit neatly opposite to the views of their people: 71 per cent of organisational leaders, for instance, believe that their organisation is committed to the mental health of employees, but only 37 per cent of those employees agree. (2)

It is an interesting phenomenon that ‘rose coloured view’ from the top. It is perhaps true that when ‘running the show’ its easier to believe that things are hunky-dory, that mostly everyone shares the vision and the passion, than it is to believe that one-in-two may be troubled by things that happen at work.

So, does it matter, this mental health thing? “I just want the job done. Do I also have to worry about how happy they are?”

The happiness quotient

Well, yes. While there is a legal obligation on every Australian business to protect their people from psychological injury – from chronic work stress, from bullying and unreasonable behaviours – there is ample evidence that a mentally healthy workplace is more productive, and that business imposts like compensation, staff turnover and sick-leave costs are reduced.

In workplaces that employees consider mentally healthy, absenteeism due to mental ill-health (stressed out, anxious, ‘at the end of their rope’) is halved. 

But how do you measure happiness? How is it achieved in a work context? 

Well, it doesn’t mean turning the place into a playpen with slides and bean bags and bringing out the whistles every time there’s a birthday. But it does mean being aware of how people are travelling, of the workplace culture – are they respected and supported, do they treat each other respectfully, and can they speak freely when things are not ‘right’? 

Walking the talk

The task, for managers and team leaders, is to be “with” their people, and for their people to be “with” them. And if the workplace is to be an energetic collective of shared vision, then all are participants.

This means “walking the talk”: that managers and team leaders model a culture founded on positive behaviours and dealings, of fairly recognising effort and contribution, of fostering good relationships, being culturally respectful, and of being always just. Top to bottom, no exceptions.

It is simply axiomatic: key to maintaining energy, engagement and productivity – the shared vision for success – lies in attending to the human values. 

And you? How are you travelling?

It has been a tough two years; and uncertainty abroad promises to keep things tough for some time ahead. So, while reflecting on your workplace and its good mental health practices, also spend a little time thinking about yourself, your own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of loved ones at home. 

If the pressures of work are travelling home with you, that’s neither good for you, nor good for those at home. So, take stock, none of us is immune to overwork, to excessive hours, nor to chronic tension. 

It’s no failing to reach out for a bit of help when work or the weight of responsibility gets a bit overwhelming. There is lots of help available. Talk to your GP, or to a counsellor. Your family also needs a healthy 'you'.

ADA Australia provides workplace mental health and drug and alcohol awareness training to workplaces, team leaders and apprentices across Australia.  


(1)   The Work Wellbeing Project 2013 (Butterworth et al; Safe Work Australia). 

(2)   Ibid 

Article by
Tim O'Brien - CEO