Are you creating your own work-related mental illness?

Are you creating your own work-related mental illness?

Believe it or not, mental health insurance claims are rapidly outpacing other forms of health insurance claims in Australia, and while they’re not always responsible, bosses could definitely get better at reducing their fair share of mental illness due to work-related stress.

Recent research by the Black Dog Institute revealed that those with higher job demands, lower job control, and higher job strain are more susceptible to developing mental illness. Ironically, another group that’s at greater odds of developing mental illness is in fact the healthcare industry itself.

Recent research suggests that only 51 percent of those who work in healthcare believe their workplace is mentally healthy, and those who don’t are four times more likely to take time off work due to a mental health issues. Then there’s Safe Work Australia research that suggests poor psychological working conditions result in nearly another half than normal (43%) the number of sick days per month.

Given that mental illness in Australia results in massive losses in productivity annually, clearly more needs to be done to alter workplace practises. If the recent results of the Best Places to Work awards is anything to go by, companies that give their staff greater perceived control of their work, and include them in the decision making process are more likely to have happy and productive staff.

The individual impacts of mental illness aside, the social cost to Australia at large, caused by work-related health issues is enormous. For example, based on Monash University research, the cost of 786,000 Australians being unable to work due to ill health, injury or disability – who collectively received income support in 2015-16 – cost the country around $18 billion. Adding insult to this injury, Safe Work Australia suggests that psychological injuries require three times as much time off work than other injuries.

Manage your own mental wellbeing

So how can you both recognise and manage the risks associated with mental unwellness caused directly by you and/or your employer? In a perfect world, everyone would work for a boss who was genuinely invested in their wellbeing, but sadly that’s far from reality.

As a result, you’re far better off managing your own wellbeing, and work-place pressures are an important place to start. Do what you can to pull back on unreasonable time pressures, and unrealistic deadlines, and if you’re the only one who’s creating those expectations – well, it’s time to wake up.

The boss may be blissfully unaware that you have a Trojan work-ethic that goes well beyond what he or she requires of you.

Thankfully, a lot more companies are mindful of the impact that work has on the mental health of their staff. As a result, there’s a lot more talk about how staff work, and how a flexible workplace environment actually makes for happier and more productive employees.

For example, research undertaken by the University of Sydney’s coaching psychology unit suggests that a ‘well-designed and green work environment can boost individual performance and cognitive tasks by over 60 percent, reduce respiratory complaints by 30 percent, and help people get a better night’s kip.

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