Why mental health at work matters

When work is good, it provides us with a sense of purpose, belonging, achievement and self-esteem. Our working lives affect our mental health.

Find out what a mentally healthy workplace looks like and the benefits it has for everyone, as well as the business bottom line.

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Key information

  • A mentally healthy workplace is one that protects and promotes mental health, and responds to people who may be experiencing mental ill health in a supportive way.
  • Employers have a legal obligation to provide a working environment that is both physically and mentally safe. However, mental ill-health is likely in many workplaces, whether you see it or not.   
  • Poor workplace mental health can impact a business bottom line through increased staff leave, staff turnover, workers compensation claims and reduced productivity. 
  • A mentally healthy workplace benefits every employee and every business, no matter the size or industry.

What a mentally healthy workplace looks like

Just like physical health, mental health is not static. Each of your workers may be going through stages of being mentally healthy or unhealthy.

Mental health is not a static state. Two arrows pointing in opposite directions with a gradient moving towards ill health to healthy.

When a workplace is mentally healthy:

  • there's a positive workplace culture where workers feel valued and engaged 
  • there's visible commitment from leaders to promote healthy practices, prevent risks to mental health and support early intervention and recovery of workers
  • work is designed to be safe
  • there is process of continuous evaluation and improvement 
  • systems, policies and procedures are integrated and embedded across the organisation
  • interventions are tailored to each work group 

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s responsibility. Workers should have an awareness of their mental health, including the risks and early signs of mental ill-health. They understand how work can contribute to mental health and what actions they can take to get or give support.


Benefits to business

  • Return on investment - For every $1 spent to improve mental health at work, you can achieve returns of up to $4 through improved productivity and savings from reduced workers compensation claims.
  • Attract and keep good staff – Research shows that working in an environment that is mentally healthy is the second most important factor when looking for a job. Workers are also less likely to change jobs.
  • Reduced absenteeism – Workers take less time off, which saves your business money.
  • Increased productivity – In mentally healthy workplaces, workers are more committed to their organisation and doing their best work.
  • Competitive advantage – Make your workplace an employer of choice where there is a great culture and people want be part of your business.

Did you know?

Nearly 1 in 6 Australian employees experience mental illness in their lifetime. lifetime.
Mentally healthy workplaces have increased: Productivity, Staff engagement, Profit.
$2.8B Estimated annual cost of mental illness to employers.
1 dollar equals 4 dollars. Return on investment in creating mentally healthy workplaces.

Benefits for workers

  • Acceptance – A positive and inclusive workplace culture gives employees the confidence to be themselves at work and feel like they belong.
  • Job satisfaction – Working in a mentally healthy workplace gives people a greater sense of purpose, achievement, and pride in their work.
  • Social connection – A supportive work environment encourages co-workers to socialise and get to know each other. Download the icare Social Connections Toolkit
  • Better support – In a mentally healthy workplace, workers will know how to access mental health support services if needed and feel comfortable to do so. Seeking support early leads to better mental health outcomes. Learn more
  • Role clarity – Everyone will have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in their role and why. See what you can be doing to support role clarity.
  • Recovery –  workers experiencing mental ill-health get better support. Recovery at work helps people heal faster.

Did you know?

Adults spend one third of their life at work and work is a key influence on mental health.
44 percent - percentage of Australian adults who experience mental illness in their lifetime.

Take the next steps

Now that you know how important mental health at work is, and the many benefits to business, employers and employees, take these next steps.


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Step-by-step advice

How to create a mentally healthy workplace

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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