Factors that impact mental health

Know what the factors are so you can identify them and manage the risks proactively to have a productive workplace.

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Key information

  • There are common factors that can impact mental health at work but the factors can also vary depending on your business or industry.  
  • Your team can be impacted by workplace factors no matter their role. 
  • Businesses have a legal obligation to proactively assess and manage these factors to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.  
  • There are major benefits to the business bottom line as well as employee satisfaction by being a mentally healthy workplace.
  • Our research has led to informed decisions into workplace factors.

    Definition

    Workplace risk factors are related to the way work is designed or managed. They can increase the risk of you or your workers developing mental ill-health. 

    There are actions you can take to manage these factors.

    It may take many or just a few factors to impact mental health in your workplace. 

    Learn more about some common workplace factors and what actions you can take to protect your workers. 


    Top factors

    These factors can increase the risk of work-related stress.

    Workers may be affected by more than one factor at a time.  

    Excessive demands, low control

    What it is: When workers have a high-demand job but feel they have limited ability to make decisions about how and when they do their work. 

    What to do:

    • create clear job descriptions
    • monitor workload
    • support flexible work
    • good work design

    SafeWork NSW has more tips to reduce work-related stress.

    Lack of support

    What it is: When workers feel unsupported by management or their team. 

    What to do:

    Low recognition

    What it is: When workers are not recognised or rewarded for their efforts, they are almost twice as likely to experience mental ill-health.  

    What to do:

    • give positive feedback

    • recognise and reward workers for individual and team accomplishments

    • promote career development opportunities

    Poor change management

    What it is: Poorly managed or communicated organisational change such as a restructure or a change in workload. 

    What to do:

    • keep staff involved and informed 
    • provide opportunities for consultation and feedback

    Job uncertainty

    What it is: When workers feel insecure in their job or uncertain about their future at work, it can increase the risk of mental ill-health by up to 30%.  

    What to do:

    • manage expectations 
    • have good change management strategies

    Unfair work practices

    What it is: When workers believe others are given special treatment. 

    What to do:

    • ensure procedures are unbiased, consistently applied, and open to appeal 

    • listen to worker concerns and allow them to request more information if needed

    • regularly review the effectiveness of procedures to ensure they are meeting their objectives

    • provide practical support to workers

    Unclear job descriptions

    What it is: When workers are unsure of what is expected of them in their day-to-day role or who they report to. 

    What to do:

    • create clear job descriptions
    • monitor workload

    Workplace conflict and violence

    What it is: When workers experience rudeness and social rejection at work, this is workplace conflict. If the behaviour is ongoing, it can become bullying (see below).

    Work-related violence is any incident where someone is abused, threatened or assaulted at work. This needs to be addressed immediately.  

    What to do:

    • have clear policies that outline unacceptable behaviour 
    • have a process in place for reporting incidents

    Bullying

    What it is: Bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an individual or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

    What to do:

    • create a positive and inclusive culture with zero tolerance for bullying

    • establish an anti-bullying policy

    • have a process for reporting and investigating incidents


    More about bullying 

    Your business has a legal obligation to provide a safe environment, free of bullying, discrimination and harassment.

    Everyone at work can help ensure that bullying does not occur. 

    Workplace bullying includes repeated behaviour like abusive or humiliating comments, aggression or unjustified criticism and complaints. Discrimination and harassment are also behaviours that contribute to bullying. 

    Make sure your workplace has zero tolerance for bullying and a workplace anti-bullying policy that is promoted by your leadership and understood by everyone.

    There needs to be a clear process for bullying to be reported and investigated.

    Additional resources

    Get help to prevent and manage workplace bullying or harassment

    Access free workplace mental health training and one-on-one coaching support. 

    Book now


    Free online tools

    These online tools can help managers comply with health and safety duties, better manage hazards and prevent psychological harm.  

    • Check how mentally healthy your workplace is but using our free Workplace Pulse Check.  It will also give you easy-to-follow advice on what to do next.
    • Use the free People at Work tool to measure workplace factors in your business

    Take the next steps

    Learn how to create and implement a plan for your business.

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    Step-by-step advice
    Let us show you how to create a mentally healthy workplace with our step-by-step advice. It doesn't matter how big or small your workplace is, it's easy to get started and you can make a difference.
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    Training
    Easy-to-do training and coaching programs for employers, managers, and employees to improve mental health in your workplace. Led by experts, these programs are free and available for a limited time only.

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