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Inclusion and flexibility may be the key to positive workplace mental health

By Jack Campbell | |4 minute read

New research has revealed two key factors that can help promote positive mental health in the workplace: inclusion and flexibility.


Coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) and R U OK? Day (14 September), Diversity Council Australia (DCA) highlighted how prioritising these themes in the workplace can help to empower employees.

DCA’s Inclusion@Work Index 2023 found that 9 per cent of workers in non-inclusive teams said work had a positive impact on their mental health. This figure was over six times higher for those in inclusive teams, with 57 per cent agreeing.

DCA chief executive Lisa Annese stressed the importance of fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces, as the impacts on employee mental health can be huge.

“How we are treated at work can have a significant impact on our mental health. If you don’t feel valued and respected at work, it can have major knock-on effects on your personal life and your mental wellbeing,” said Ms Annese.

“The data clearly shows that organisations with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion tend to have a positive effect on employee mental health. If you treat people with dignity and respect, have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment, create some flexibility and have a supportive management environment, people flourish.”

As noted by Ms Annese, flexibility played a major role in promoting good mental health. According to the report, workers who were able to take advantage of flexible working were four times as likely to say their work positively impacted their mental health. Forty-five per cent of flexible workers said work was beneficial to their mental health, compared to just 12 per cent who did not have access to flexible working.

Similarly, company culture and management played a strong role in influencing mental health. Those with inclusive organisational structures and managers were almost four times as likely to say work positively impacted their mental health, with 53 per cent with inclusive managers compared to just 14 per cent with non-inclusive managers.

Meanwhile, exclusion had dramatic impacts on mental wellbeing, with 49 per cent of workers who were subjected to discrimination or harassment claiming work had a negative impact on their mental health. Comparatively, just 21 per cent who weren’t affected by this reported the same.

With wellbeing becoming an increasingly important consideration for candidates, managers who address flexibility and inclusion in the workplace and enact policy that prioritises them can help to stay ahead of the competition.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.