Australian employees would rather come up with a fictitious illness to take a day off than admit it is for mental-health purposes, according to a recently released paper by Allianz Australia.
The paper, titled “Awareness into action: A holistic approach to cultivating mentally healthy workplaces in Australia,” revealed a massive 93% of full-time working Australians are uncomfortable discussing or disclosing a mental-health condition to a manager, and would rather lie when taking a sick day.
Eighty-five per cent of employees also felt their manager is more likely to think their need for time off is genuine if they say they are suffering from a cold or flu rather than for stress or anxiety, findings showed.
Overall, most employees are generally afraid to talk about mental illness for fear of stigma (90%) and fear of losing their job (78%). Others are concerned that mental-health issues won’t be taken as seriously as physical illnesses in the workplace (84%).
Nearly 40% of all Allianz Australia’s total active workers’ compensation claims and 11% of all payments were related to mental health-related conditions and symptoms.
“We know good worker health and wellbeing boosts organisational health, business performance, and productivity; however, there is a rising trend of mental ill-health in Australian workplaces which needs to be addressed,” said Helen Silver, Allianz Australia’s chief general manager. “The findings from our research indicate that, despite the progress made by both the public and private sectors, there is still a lot of work to be done by employers to address misconceptions when it comes to mental ill-health.”
According to the paper, employers must take a holistic approach to addressing mental ill-health in the modern workplace:
- Physical: Promote the mental-health benefits of physical activity and good general health
- Mental: Encourage awareness through training, mental wellbeing leave, and encouraging transparent dialogue
- Space and role: Create positive organisational design that directly influences employee motivation and happiness
- Culture: Nurture a positive workplace culture that is transparent and inclusive
- Ecosystems/Partnerships: Develop partnerships and alliances between government, insurers, mental-health professionals, and other entities to improve communication, engagement, and mental-health recovery
“The first step is to encourage employees to be honest and unafraid to seek the necessary treatment they require,” Silver said. “This might involve a cultural shift towards transparent dialogue that is led by the leadership team and should be backed by manager training to provide adequate support. Actions by employers to create an environment where workers feel they can be safe to identify their mental injury will greatly assist employees. Measures like creating positive organisational design and nurturing a positive workplace culture will also directly influence employee motivation and happiness.”
Silver also stressed that “taking leave for mental health is just as acceptable as taking time off for a physical illness.”