In today’s rapidly moving business world, it’s crucial for business leaders to prioritise their employees’ mental health and wellbeing. This includes offering support for those who may be struggling with addiction and other mental health conditions. And when employees need to take time away from work to undergo treatment, a smooth return to work is equally vital.
There are a few factors that contribute to the increasing alcohol and other drug (AOD) statistics in the workplace: irregular or long work hours, low job satisfaction, high-demand cultures, and poor work/life balance. Additionally, challenging work conditions, poor mental health and safety practices, high levels of work stress, discrimination, workplace bullying, and inadequate supervision and/or support can be leading indicators of mental health and safety incidents.
Recent studies estimate that mental health issues, including AOD use and addiction, impacted productivity and other associated losses in Australia to the tune of around $80 billion dollars. It’s no longer an “outside-the-office” problem; employers and business owners need to take a holistic approach for their wellbeing programs and culture in the workplace.
Understanding the landscape
Data-driven insights can help you understand your organisation’s mental health landscape by analysing past and current trends. There may be increased absenteeism and decreased productivity across some employees. Implementing anonymous surveys can identify underlying issues, reveal patterns of AOD-related or addiction problems, and assist in making informed decisions.
Businesses of all sizes can start exploring AI-enabled capabilities to proactively detect mental health risk indicators throughout the workplace and help proactively manage preventative controls or recommend next best actions for early, personalised interventions.
Creating a supportive culture
It’s time to update your organisational systems and processes to ensure that mental health is embedded into your workplace culture. This means creating an environment where discussing mental health is intuitive and encouraged. Regular team meetings where employees can share their concerns without fear of judgement can assist, along with anonymous feedback channels to empower employees to speak up without risk.
If you haven’t already, consider shifting your key performance indicators (KPIs) to include mental health and safety outcomes. Measures need to go beyond general metrics to not only evaluate mental health and safety targets but also to make results transparent and actionable, instilling trust throughout the workplace – reinforcing mental health matters.
Planning for the future
Include mental health and safety objectives and key results in your quarterly and annual plans and business cases. Integrate them into your strategies, policies, and mandates for the years ahead. Understand and recognise that mental health and safety is a crucial measure of your responsibilities as a business leader, for the benefit of everyone.
Accept that policy changes related to mental health are not a matter of “if” but “when” and “how”. Ensure that these changes are embedded into your long-term strategies, irrespective of department, division, or function.
Promoting positive outcomes
Just as organisations use “zero carbon emissions” as a way to demonstrate accountability to a healthier environment, showcase the positive impacts of your mental health and safety results and targets. Reinforce how these positive outcomes create a better future – together.
Assisting employees’ return to work
When an employee needs to take time away due to addiction or other mental health conditions, take a proactive approach. Ensure that you have a clear plan in place for their return, and involve all relevant stakeholders.
Returning to work after a period of mental health rehabilitation can be daunting. A structured plan that’s personalised to each employee’s individual needs is crucial, while offering the support and guidance they require for their successful return to work.
Critically, employees and businesses should understand that the journey to recovery doesn’t end when an employee returns to their duties at work.
Ongoing support through programs like return-to-work (RTW) initiatives is best for the individual and the business. Monitor and evaluate their progress, ensuring they have the support they need as they adjust back to workplace life.
By integrating real-life examples and actionable steps such as these, businesses can address AOD addiction and challenging mental health issues to create a workplace environment that supports employees as they heal. This holistic approach not only empowers employees while protecting employers but also promotes a healthier and more satisfying workplace that’s more open, productive and collaborative.
Consultation with experts and professionals in the space to assist in tailoring training strategies, systems and technologies to specific business needs and compliance is a great place to start.
Jake Majerovic is the co-founder and strategy director of Hope In Health.
Your organization's culture determines its personality and character. The combination of your formal and informal procedures, attitudes, and beliefs results in the experience that both your workers and consumers have. Company culture is fundamentally the way things are done at work.