October 2021 is Mental Health Month. With many people in Australian workplaces displaced and negatively affected by COVID-19, AustralianSuper sat down with mental health experts SuperFriend, who shared some tips and guidance on how you can help your employees during this time.
Mental Health Month gives employers the chance to highlight mental wellbeing with their people and let them know they’re here to offer support.
‘Employers are playing a more important role in the mental health of their people than ever before, with leaders really stepping up to the plate,’ says SuperFriend Impact Manager Renada Lee.
We’ve had a major increase in demand for our workplace mental health and wellbeing services since the pandemic began,’1 says Renada.
Rose Kerlin, Group Executive Membership & Brand at AustralianSuper, says in many ways the pandemic has helped to destigmatise mental health in the workplace.
‘When you’re in the office you’re less likely to talk about any difficult moments with the children or struggles in your personal life, but when you’re invited into each other’s homes every day the dynamic changes.
‘Checking in on one another and talking about mental health has been normalised,” says Kerlin.
‘It’s now expected that people have good and bad days, good and bad moments in our day or in meetings.
‘People have become used to having those conversations in the workplace which has broken a barrier of expectations both ways.’
Promoting good mental health can positively impact your business says Carly Webster, SuperFriend’s Solutions Manager – Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing.
‘This is shown in multiple studies, including research by SafeWork Australia2.
‘Knowing how to support the positive mental health of all employees can help an organisation to succeed,’ says Carly. ‘Particularly through the remainder of the pandemic – but beyond that too.’
‘Maintaining a human-centred focus on employee wellbeing for the long term is key,’ says Carly. ‘In Australia we continue to see individual mental health decline outside the workplace, so we see workplace support becoming increasingly important.’
Signs your employees may need some extra support
‘The workplace (virtual or otherwise) provides a crucial environment for employers to observe the changes in daily behaviour, which could signal that someone might need extra support. This can look different for each individual, so knowing how people behave on a good day is vital to being able to detect if something’s changed,’ says Carly.
It’s also important to be aware of some common signs of declining mental health, such as:
Changes in language and interactions
- Displaying a lack of interest in things they would normally enjoy or be involved in
- Withdrawing from those around them
- Struggling to perform at their usual work standard
- Showing signs of suicide ideation, which may include talking about feeling hopeless or seeing their activities or life as pointless (generally less common in a work environment)
- Low in energy, tired and fatigued
- Having trouble sleeping or experiencing insomnia
- Struggling to concentrate on a task, remember things or make decisions
- Experiencing some physical pains such as headaches, or
- Losing their appetite
If you notice signs that someone might need some support, there are several actions you can take:
- Communicate that you’ve observed these changes which will provide a safe and judgement-free way to prompt a conversation about how someone is travelling
- Follow SuperFriend’s Art of Checking In guide which will help you to effectively navigate the ‘checking in’ process.
If you have serious concerns about someone’s immediate safety – please call 000 straight away.
Taking a leadership position
Employers are playing a more important role in the mental health of their people than ever before, with leaders really stepping up to the plate.
Kerlin says workplaces can, in many cases, be the first to identify that something's ‘off’, so reaching out and having that conversation with employees is very important.
‘From a leadership point of view, it’s really important to show that it’s okay to be vulnerable and admit to your colleagues if you’re not doing so well… because it can help other people enter into a conversation about how they're feeling,’ says Kerlin.
‘You need to ensure you have the time and space to really listen because people won't open up if you're not keen to hear their answer,” says Kerlin. ‘If you genuinely are concerned about someone, you need to pick the time and you need to have the capacity to listen and to respond appropriately.
‘You need to ensure you’re able to connect the person with the right support if they need it, but sometimes all people want is someone to listen to them and really hear what they have to say.’
AustralianSuper supports SuperFriend
AustralianSuper partners with workplace wellbeing organisation, SuperFriend, to help support our registered employers build positive, supportive and mentally well workplaces.
With 1 in 5 Australians navigating mental health challenges in any year, and almost half during their lifetime, we know this is something we can only improve together.
This October for mental health month AustralianSuper is encouraging members and more than 300,000 contributing employers to enhance mental health & wellbeing through the SuperFriend partnership.
Additional resources from SuperFriend
wellbeing self check-in
Register for a free 15-minute online wellbeing check-in module by SuperFriend (including learning components and personalised recommendations for actions based on your responses).
- COVID-19 support guide
Explore free resources for employers on the SuperFriend website. Find out how to safely manage the COVID-19 pandemic, including employee support, leadership information and avenues for professional support.
- Transition back to work webinar
Watch this pre-recorded session with registered psychologist and Workplace Mental Health Consultant Sarah Hellwege. It explores how the transition back to work may impact people and what employees can do to support their own safe and successful return to work.