One of the silver linings, so to speak, of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the recognition of the importance of mental health for employee motivation, productivity, and overall happiness. As the recently released Allianz Future Thriving Workplaces report outlined, three in four Australian workers believe that there needs to be more dialogue and discussion around mental health and wellbeing at work.
For Julie Mitchell (pictured above), CGM of workers’ compensation at Allianz Australia, creating a culture that prioritises the mental wellbeing of employees is “essential to a healthy and thriving workplace, whether that be in a remote working environment, an office, or at a construction site.”
“It’s important for employers to acknowledge the benefits that addressing mental ill-health can bring to employees, including autonomy, sense of purpose, achievement, positive interactions, and personal and financial achievements,” she told Insurance Business.
“Our action as leaders needs to be meaningful – the priority is addressing each individual’s wellbeing, as thriving employees will lead to positive team and business outcomes.”
Though times have certainly changed, there’s still unfortunately a stigma in the workplace associated with admitting that one’s mental health is suffering, Mitchell added.
“From our research, we’ve found that four in 10 Australian employees are feeling that mental health issues will not be taken as seriously as physical illnesses,” she said.
As a result, it’s incumbent on managers and fellow employees to try to keep an eye out for any signs that someone might not be doing so well.
“Monitor individuals’ absenteeism, performance and attitude, and, at an organisational level, review turnover rates, time off for injured employees and the number of psychological and even physical injury claims,” Mitchell advised. “These are just some of the metrics that businesses can use to benchmark their employees’ wellbeing.”
At Allianz Australia, several initiatives have been enacted in recent times to help promote the mental health of employees, Mitchell said. For example – the company’s ‘Mental Health First Aid Network’ is comprised of the 2.5% of Allianz employees that are trained as mental health first aiders.
“Their role is to be there to listen, understand how our people are feeling, help guide individuals through any feelings of distress and offer suggestions as to what help to seek if relevant, and is all conducted confidentially,” she stated.
In addition, the company’s employees have access to free counselling services, and have been able to participate in online mindfulness and yoga sessions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Allianz is also a founding member of the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia which, according to Mitchell, is “business-led, expert-guided, and made up of 15 of Australia’s largest employers, all championing a culture of good mental health for all workers.”