“Today marks World Mental Health Day; a timely reminder for Australian small businesses and family enterprises to assess their work practices and culture,” the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said.
“One in five people will experience a mental health issue at some stage in their life,” Ms Carnell said. “High demands, work overload, bullying and poor communication can all contribute to stressed employees taking leave to avoid a toxic workplace, or leaving their job altogether.
“A happy workplace is a productive workplace. A mentally healthy business retains staff for longer and everyone knows what the business goals are which helps set realistic timeframes and expectations. When there’s a lack of communication, your business runs into problems.
“Mental illness costs Australian businesses almost $11 billion per year. Scottish Pacific’s latest SME Growth Index reports small-business owners working up to 80 hours a week or more, losing sleep from not getting everything done in a day and worrying about cashflow.
“The recently announced Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health is very important, as this will focus on mental health as a productivity issue, not just a health issue.
“If you want to help improve the mental wellbeing of your employees, start by acknowledging them for their work. It’s important to also involve employees in the decision-making process, and ensure there’s good communication across all levels.
“Small and family enterprises tend to work as very close units, which means there are regular opportunities to notice if someone is acting out of character. Ask them how they’re feeling, listen to them, and if they’re struggling, suggest they seek support or offer to help them arrange to talk to a professional.
“Small-business owners looking to improve their own mental health should schedule meetings during core work hours, set realistic deadlines, take a holiday, exercise regularly and get some ‘me’ time.”
Small-business owners can find more information about creating a mentally healthy workplace by visiting www.headsup.org.au/.