Empowering your organisations: Crucial conversations about mental health

Man and Woman talking

We understand that prioritising the wellbeing of employees is essential for building healthy, thriving workplaces. That’s why we’ve created two new toolkits to help empower employees and managers to have crucial conversations about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Download our Crucial Conversations toolkits for employees (PDF, 1.4 MB) and managers (PDF, 1.8 MB).

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted workplace behaviours and protocols for two years. With 2022 promising more of the same, we’ve continued our research into the area of mentally healthy workplaces.

Our Crucial Conversations in the Modern Workplace project offers insights into the steps organisations can take to foster safe and mentally healthy work environments. Specifically, it offers guidance to organisations grappling with new workplace expectations and the changing needs of employees wanting flexible working arrangements. The project focuses on how managers and their direct reports can better manage their relationships in a changing environment.

The wide-ranging research project draws on survey responses from over a thousand Australian senior managers and employees, and is informed by expert advice and findings from our own claims data. The results of the project are reported in two separate toolkits – one each for employees and managers. The toolkits have been designed to empower individuals and organisations to take strong actions towards employee mental wellbeing.

Conducting crucial conversations

What exactly do we mean by ‘crucial conversations’?

A crucial conversation is a discussion with high stakes, differing opinions and strong emotions. These conversations can mean different things to an employee or manager, with both bringing their own needs and expectations to any dialogue relating to their work environment.

When handled poorly or avoided, these interactions can lead to strained relationships and, in worst-case scenarios, can even exacerbate mental health issues in the workplace. As such, they need to be handled with preparation and tact, and conducted with empathy.

Our research breaks down the key demographics of Australia’s modern workforce and attitudes towards mentally healthy workplaces. It examines which crucial conversations employees and managers are anxious about having in the year ahead. It also examines how equipped both employees and managers feel about leading a crucial conversation on workplace wellness.

Among the surprising findings detailed in the toolkits is that employees and managers have vastly different perceptions about how their organisations fare in creating mentally healthy workplaces:

In a sign that employees are looking to have crucial conversations in the workplace, 4 out of 5 (79 per cent) say they have a significant topic to discuss with their manager in 2022. However, many of these conversations don’t take place because employees and their managers have different ideas about who should initiate them. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of employees are not satisfied with how often their manager checks in with them about their mental health. At the same time, almost a third (31 per cent) of managers have an expectation that their teams need to make them aware of any concerns about mental health in the workplace.

Tools and training are key for mental health well being

Julie Mitchell, Allianz Australia’s Chief General Manager Personal Injury, says there has never been a more pressing need for employees and their organisations to re-examine the way they interact with one another.

“While many businesses have adapted to new flexible ways of working since the pandemic began, a third year of disruption and increased workload requires a re-think,” Mitchell says. “Ensuring employees and their managers have regular, productive conversations is vital to building more mentally healthy workplaces in 2022.”

Underpinning the project are two broad observations that reveal the urgent need to reassess current workplace practices relating to mental health wellbeing.

Our claims data1 shows the following:

  1. Workplace mental health injuries are on the rise, with active psychological claims increasing by 12 per cent since the pandemic began.
  2. The average cost per active psychological claim is currently around 3.5 times that of active claims for physical injuries.

As we enter a third year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations continue to adapt to the challenges of the modern workplace. Our toolkits are essential resources that all working Australians can use to create supportive and thriving workplaces.

Access our previous mental health and wellbeing research projects, and download the Crucial Conversations toolkits for employees and managers on our Allianz Workplace Mental Health Hub.

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 834 Australian employees (middle managers and below designations) and a nationally representative sample of 259 Australian senior managers (senior managers and above designations) and was carried out between 7th and 12th December 2021. All data was post-weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest population estimates.

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). Information contained in this article is accurate as at 03 March 2022 and may be subject to change. In some cases information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of the issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.

1 Allianz Workers Compensation claims data comparing primary psychological active claims to December 2021 from December 2019, from the Allianz Australia Workers' Compensation Underwritten Portfolio.