Mental health investments pay, survey finds

But just half of NSW firms have initiatives in place

Mental health investments pay, survey finds
t half of businesses in New South Wales have measures that address mental health despite findings that such initiatives in the workplace have real and tangible effects on a company’s bottom line, latest research on NSW companies suggested.

“That’s quite a staggering statistic when you consider that one third of our adult life is spent at work and that work can therefore have a significant impact on our mental health,” said Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean.

A Return-on-Investment Analysis commissioned by the state government looked at how company efforts toward mental health affected absenteeism and presenteeism (productivity) costs among 2,000 small, medium and large businesses.

The results, for every dollar spent:
  • Workplace health promotions have an ROI of $2.86 for SMEs and $4.01 for large companies;
  • Stress management programs have an ROI of $1.56 for SMEs and $2.39 for large companies; and
  • Return-to-work programs have an ROI of $3.90 for SMEs and $3.74 for large companies

“There’s a real opportunity for businesses to introduce valuable mental health programs in their workplaces while having a considerable impact on their business’s bottom line,” he said.

The survey also used a benchmarking tool that identified five levels of capability in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
  • With basic awareness (19.05% of companies surveyed), the organisation views mental health as the responsibility of the individual.
  • With intention (29.25%), the company has general work and safety systems, policies and processes with limited, ad hoc or outsources psychosocial support services;
  • With limited action (29.35%), the organisation recognises its responsibility to manage workplace mental health risks and issues. There are also generic mental health systems, policies and processes with reactive, optional or unconnected interventions;
  • With effective action (13.55%), there is ongoing leadership commitment in terms of work design, culture and funding) with a prevention focus. There are universal mental health systems, policies and processes that support evidence-informed interventions at the organisational level, targeted at identified risks;
  • With an integrated and sustained approach (8.8%), mental health is everyone’s responsibility.

Kean said these findings, among others, will inform the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Summit in November and help develop a strategy for mentally healthy workplaces across NSW.

Mental illness does not discriminate, said Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies said, and this is why prevention and early intervention strategies are key to improving the mental health of workers right across NSW.

“Our Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy is a critical part of our comprehensive approach to this important issue,” Davies said.

“Today’s findings show there is more work to be done to help businesses support staff with evidence-based mental health strategies in the workplace.”

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