97% of CEOs don't do enough for mental health at work

How HR leaders can address this glaring disconnect

97% of CEOs don't do enough for mental health at work

According to the Mental Health First Aid Kit produced by Beyond Blue, after heart disease and cancer, the third biggest health problem in Australia is mental health. As such, it’s highly likely that as an HR leader you have an employee with mental illness during your career.

Mental illness is far more prevalent than most people realise. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says 45% of Australians (aged 16-85) will experience mental health at some point in their life, and 20% of Australians will experience it in any given year.

But a new survey of 500 CEOs and 5400 full-time employees, revealed a disconnect between employees and employers on the mental health front. The fourth annual workforce attitudes toward mental health report surveyed 500 CEOs and 5,400 full-time employees in 5 countries.

Conducted by Headspace Health, the world’s leading provider of mental health and wellbeing solutions, the data revealed that most leaders are pulling back on workplace mental health programs post-covid but there is an increasing demand for mental health assistance from employees who think now is the time when the programs are needed the most.

The survey data showed that 97% of Australian CEO’s think they do enough to support workplace mental health, but only 66% of employees feel the same way. Similarly, 93% of employers think their employee mental health benefits are easily accessed but only 68% of employees agree.

And while last year’s survey revealed that 71% of employees reported an increase in focus on mental health, in this year’s survey, only 31% of respondents say their company has kept that focus over the last year. 

“Employee mental health is a business continuity issue that every leader needs to address, particularly as many employees return to the office and experience new day-to-day stressors," said Russell Glass, CEO of Headspace Health.

The cost of mental health to the workplace

Work Outcomes Research Cost Benefit Project released preliminary research showing that Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion dollars each year by failing to provide early intervention or treatment for employees with mental health conditions.

The AHRC claims that work pressure accounts for around half of all mental health claims so ultimately the cost of developing and implementing strategies to create a safe and healthy workplace is far less than the cost of ignoring it.

The AHRC lists the benefits of implementing mental health initiatives as,

  • Reduced costs associated with worker absence and high worker turnover
  • Improved productivity and output
  • Minimised stress levels and improved morale
  • Avoid litigation and fines for breach of health and safety laws, discrimination, or industrial disputes

Headspace Health’s data revealed that 41% of Australian employees surveyed had missed a full week or more of work due to stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges and while their covid-related stress may be falling, they are increasingly feeling stress from burnout and challenges with management and leadership.

91% of working Australians reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress at least once a week and almost half experience stress daily so it’s only natural that our multi-generational and increasingly diverse workforce expects mental healthcare from their employers.

Positively, 89% of global CEOs said they saw the inextricable link between diversity, equity and inclusion and mental health. Leaders are ready and willing to lead the charge toward better mental health – 60% of global CEOs use their company’s mental health benefits regularly.

“To attract and retain talent, it’s critical that leaders destigmatise mental health from the top-down and meet the growing expectations of their employees for high-quality mental health benefits,” said Glass.

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