Addressing mental health stigma is the next step in improving workplace wellbeing
Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager, Personal Injury, Allianz Australia
Unpredictable change and uncertainly have dominated the last 18 months of living in the pandemic. This change has impacted every aspect of people’s lives. Workplaces have seen an upheaval – from retail to office space and construction sites to classrooms, all workers in Australia are adapting to these changes. In fact, an Allianz research survey has revealed 67 per cent1 of employees across all industries have experienced concerns about balancing work and personal life since the pandemic began.
Allianz Workers Compensation claims data has revealed workplace mental health injuries are on the rise – with active psychological claims increasing by 5 per cent, for the last financial year.2
At Allianz, we’ve seen an increase in psychological workers compensation claims . That’s why, we’ve launched our Finding Balance in the Modern Workplace (PDF, 2.67 Mb) report that shows employers and employees are struggling to find the balance to create a mentally healthy workplace, amid the ongoing uncertainty and change. Proactively preventing and managing workplace mental health issues is now more important than ever.
How can organisations support their staff and reduce the stigma of mental health issues, particularly as the modern workplace continues to evolve?
Shifting mindsets into action
The first step is recognising that the environment of work has changed dramatically – across all sectors and everyone is responding differently. For example, those in corporate workplaces, are no longer working in traditional settings, or “from 9-5”. In other workplaces like retail, or hospitality, businesses are adapting to different ways of working. For example, moving operations online.
Navigating the changing environment can come with added complexities for employers/managers and employees – and varies from industry to industry. Workplaces need to create a space that facilitates safe and secure conversations to ensure employees feel mentally supported. At Allianz, our Personal Injury team focus on the person behind the injury, not the injury alone, to provide personalised support that works for every employee.
Ensuring managers are fostering a positive workplace culture that supports the evolving environment, while still achieving the business outcomes is essential.
From a practical perspective, there are things employers can do for employees to support them through this evolution. For example, our research revealed 41 per cent1 of employees would like to see more flexible working options.
Other support systems could include:
- Implementing strong meeting guidelines and protocols
- Setting both personal and organisational objectives for employees when they are on site
- Ensuring accountability for workloads/shifts is collaborative
- Promoting the importance of the transition between work and personal time, regardless of the work setting
Finding balance in the modern workplace
Our research also found that one of the biggest challenges employees face when trying to strike a balance is finding the time to transition and switch off after each busy day. It is this transitional space, where those leaving a work setting can re-energise and refocus that is so important.
With the boundaries between work and home becoming more blurred, it is vital workplaces provide employees with the right tools and structures in place to support employees looking to find greater balance between their work and home lives. One of the most powerful first steps managers can take is to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues.
By encouraging more open dialogue on the subject, and creating collaborative workplaces where employees can take ownership of their own mental health, we can help deliver a greater sense of balance between the demands of work and home.
Opening a dialogue
While the overwhelming majority of managers feel they have been supportive of employees’ mental health over the last 12 months, half of those surveyed (53 per cent)1 admit to not having had a discussion with their direct reports about it. However, this signals progress since 2020, where just over one in four of the workers surveyed (27 per cent)1 said that they had spoken to their managers about their mental health.
34 per cent of Australian employees surveyed would like to have check-ins with their managers more regularly.1
Disclosure comes with open dialogue. Making sure people understand they are in a safe environment to raise concerns, and keeping conversations, and access to tools and structures private are key.
A top-down approach to addressing this stigma and normalising discussion will help to bridge the gap between employees and employers. This has certainly started over the last 18 months, and business leaders have an important role to continue to play in showing vulnerability. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools to do this.
“It's time for our leaders to ignite these discussions, work in partnership with their employees to address the stigma, and take action to support employees finding greater balance between work and home.”
Through our Personal Injury Division, Allianz is a leading provider of Workers Compensation and offers a range of support and services for the evolving needs of Australian workplaces regardless of their setting. Visit the Allianz Workplace Mental Health Hub to learn how you can find or facilitate balance in the workplace and open up the dialogue between employees and employers.
About the research
The research was commissioned by Allianz and conducted by YouGov Plc. The survey was conducted online with a nationally representative sample of 1,049 Australian employees (middle managers and below designations) and a nationally representative sample of 524 Australian senior managers (senior managers and above designations) and was carried out between 26 July and 6 August 2021. All data was post-weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest population estimates.
About the Allianz Workers Compensation claims data
Allianz Australia’s own data on incidence and cost of mental health in the workplace, relating to workers compensation. The data has been taken from one data set – the Allianz Workers Compensation Underwritten insurance portfolio – which covers workers compensation claims across the privately underwritten states and territories of Australia.
- YouGov, Finding Balance in the Modern Workplace research (2021)
- Allianz Workers Compensation claims data comparing the 2019/20 (July-2019 to June-2020) and 2020/21 (July-2020 to June-2021) years as at the end of each year from the Allianz Australia Underwritten Workers Compensation insurance portfolio