What are the red flags for mental wellbeing within your organisation?

The last few years have seen a huge number of impacts. Some positive, including that we are now talking more about mental wellbeing.
Sometimes, this talking is not heard. It’s time to change…

If the global pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of mental health. Many have been mentally stretched with lockdowns and mandates, affecting work and personal lives.

As we continue to find new ways of living and working, there is a renewed focus on the importance of mental health. For businesses, this means taking time to review their mental health strategy and consider its connectivity to workplace health and safety protocols, beyond the ‘nice to do’, but as a critical element of HR management.

The impact of mental health issues on organisational productivity, performance and safety is well established, with a solid body of academic studies, by Harvard University (2010)1 and WHO (2019)2.

Beyond causing serious personal harm to individuals, mental health concerns, in fact, cost the Australian economy as much as $12.8 billion every year due to lost productivity and sickness absence. Select interventions may be able to save $4.5 billion a year.3

To put this into a greater context, all work-related injuries and diseases, including those of a mental health nature, cost our economy $61.8 billion4. Despite being one-fifth of this total expense, awareness and support for mental health safety in the workplace has severely lagged behind that of physical health.

Mental health issues in the workplace have an extraordinary global economic impact. According to a September 2017 report conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health costs the global economy an estimated US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity5. Disturbances to our mental and emotional wellbeing affect our ability to do our work properly and efficiently. This, in turn, affects an organisation’s time, resources, and eventually the bottom line.

The 2014 PWC report on “Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis” demonstrated that every dollar a business invests in effective mental health initiatives, receives a return of AUD2.30: benefits include increased productivity and performance, decreased absenteeism and reduced compensation claims. The report notes the significance of this investment on organisational performance, given that 45% of Australians between the ages of 16 and 85 would experience a mental health concern at some point in their lives. It confirmed a broad spectrum of industries as thereby affected, including the law, finance and insurance, IT, mining, construction, hospitality, media, professional technical and arts and recreation.6

Mental health concerns have further intensified with COVID-19

Given the high level of mental health issues and subsequent rising insurance claims a gap is evident in the area of corporate risk management and leadership, as indicated by the Australian Institute of Company Directors which confirms ‘Why leaders must talk to staff on mental health’ (2020).7

Social stigma in discussing facets of our mental health persists in the workplace among employees and supervisors. This is understandable.  No employee wants to give the impression they are overwhelmed or, cannot manage their workplace responsibilities, nor do they want to feel belittled, judged, or treated differently due to their mental health concern. On the other hand, supervisors may find it difficult to support employees with their mental health, as they may feel awkward, unqualified, or even worried they will say or do the wrong thing, possibly creating an HR issue.

Appropriately managing mental health concerns may assist with understanding what could be impacting a team, team member and/or organisational performance.

So, what are some red flags for mental health being an issue at your workplace?

Poor communication and management practices

Kind and engaging communication and management practices are the mark of a good manager-employee relationship. Poor communication and practices, on the other hand, create strain on the relationship, poor mental health, and increase workplace stress.

Low levels of support for employees

Managers who don’t help remove obstacles or share resources with employees can contribute to employees feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. For instance, rather than expecting employees to figure out tasks that they’re unclear about, managers could demonstrate how to complete those tasks and stay available for questions.

Performance pressure

The expectations of employees to constantly perform at peak levels puts them under unreasonable pressure. It leads to an increase in workload and work hours, added stress, and emotional exhaustion.

Job insecurity

Job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic became a major stressor for employees in 2020 which continues today. The fear and financial distress of not being able to pay bills or care for families carries a significant threat to an individual’s mental wellbeing.

These are red flags for the causes, but what are the impacts on your organisation?

Lack of engagement with one’s work

Poor mental health leads to demotivation and lack of focus. Mental health concerns impact concentration and memory, impacting on capacity to comprehend information and complete tasks; in turn affecting motivation and creating an overall negative compounding effect in work engagement.

Productivity and job performance suffers

High performance is mental strength in motion. Poor mental health can reduce job performance since it makes accessing the behavioural skills that foster creativity and resilience all the more challenging. Without these skills, we don’t have the psychological resources to perform well at work.

Reduced physical capability and daily functioning

Mental health concerns take a toll on an individual, emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally. Individuals become fatigued, impacting the capacity to engage in their work and activities of daily living. Withdrawing is thereby noted as a common symptom.

Misaligned communication

It’s difficult to communicate when we’re emotionally drained. Poor mental health may lead to misinterpreting or overreacting to colleagues. It may come across as, speaking with an aggressive tone, not listening, or even, having a negative attitude.

Poor decision-making and/or increased mistakes

Mental health concerns can lead to difficulty in making decisions or even increased mistakes, given the impact of these concerns on concentration and memory, amongst many other impacts. Behaviours displayed include: missing meetings, showing up late, not adhering to commitments, or company policies.

How can we break the cycle?

While the focus has shifted toward mental health awareness, education surrounding it has not caught up. Many are mindful of the importance of psychological wellbeing and its impact on our communities, but rarely do they know the actionable steps to make a real difference.

We must redirect our communities and businesses onto skills and tools to not only recognise mental health concerns but support and nurture our peers to recover and/or manage such.

Raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health has the potential to result in early intervention, which can lead to a quick recovery. By raising awareness and increasing education, we can allow mental health to be seen as a normal part of the human psyche.

At Executive Central we have, for a long time, been aware of the positive impact of executive coaching on mental wellbeing. Our experience with our clients is well supported by the literature in the field. However, we see an increasing need amongst our client groups for training and development in this area: the need to equip organisational leaders with more powerful tools to lead on wellbeing, particularly in these times of COVID-19.

Creating resilience through mental health and wellbeing is key to a high-performing culture.

In the current climate of social isolation and increased work pressure, supporting mental wellbeing is therefore vital in mitigating the long-term impacts of mental health concerns in the workplace. The use of the SPEAK program is more relevant than ever before.

SPEAK stands for


Signs an individual may be experiencing a mental health concern


How you Prepare to SPEAK


Considering the Environment, including time, timing and place


What you need to Articulate


What you need to Know

The SPEAK program provides the knowledge and skills to proactively foster a psychologically healthy and safe workplace, developing the individual’s capacity to manage workplace pressures and build resilience. The benefits of SPEAK extend to the entire organisation, enhancing the internal and external brand and supporting growth.

What’s unique about SPEAK?

The SPEAK program provides skills and understanding that engage everyone in the organisation – not just leaders. Creating a shared positive culture of attention to mental health and wellbeing.

SPEAK provides an actionable framework and toolkit for both preventing and managing psychological risk. This program will move your organisation on from EAP outsourcing models to building a resilient and positive culture. The SPEAK program champions transformative impacts on culture, performance and productivity as flow-on effects.

Three key components of the SPEAK program are;

  • 2-hour SPEAK training on how to effectively support and manage a mental health concern with your team
  • One-on-one participant coaching from a senior executive coach to strategise how you SPEAK with your team
  • A digital resource kit: information, tips, content and guidance to support leaders to embed SPEAKing in team culture.

SPEAK is different!

SPEAK is an evidence-based mental wellbeing program developed by a psychologist with over 30 years’ experience in organisations and clinical settings, in addition to undergoing extensive peer review by subject matter experts, including Human Resources specialists, psychiatrists and psychologists.

SPEAK has gained four finalist awards in supporting mental wellbeing internationally.

It is SPEAK’s point of difference that facilitates a positive shift towards a high-performing work culture with minimal impact on the business: 2-hour training of succinct and practical information and customised management support.

Its practical approach and the SPEAK acronym facilitate ease of understanding and mitigates stigma.

The SPEAK program enhances the organisation’s capacity to support the mental health and wellbeing of its most valuable resource – its staff. Specifically, it equips leaders with the approaches, attitudes, tools, and techniques to enable earlier intervention and improved mental wellbeing management outcomes.

The audience for SPEAK is middle to senior organisational leaders who need the skills and knowledge to effectively support and manage the mental wellbeing of their staff.

It is recommended SPEAK sessions be introduced by a senior leader, demonstrating organisational commitment, creating buy-in for the program and mental health and wellbeing. Each session is structured so that attendees participate with peers, facilitating trust and capacity for open conversations.

If your organisation is already passionate about individual and organisational wellbeing, we can help you translate that passion. If you are aware of gaps in this area and would simply like to find out more, practical business-focused consultants would be pleased to talk it through with you, keeping in mind the particular context and constraints of your organisation.

For more information on making a difference join us at https://executivecentral.com.au/

1 Harvard University. Mental health problems in the workplace (2010): https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace
2 WHO. Mental Health and Substance Use. Mental Health in the workplace (2019): https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/mental-health-in-the-workplace
3 Mental Health Australia and KPMG. Investing to save. The economic benefits for Australia for investment in mental health reform (2018)
4 Safework Australia, accessed 21 July 2022, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/data-and-research/work-related-injuries/cost-injury-and-illness-type4
5 World Health Organisation. “Mental Health Burden”
6 “Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis 2014,” PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, accessed 25 April, 2022, https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf
7 Australian Institute of Company Directors. Why leaders must talk to staff on mental health (2020): https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/membership/membership-update/why-leaders-must-talk-to-staff-on-mental-health

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