On Sunday 28 April, Australia commemorates World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day.
It’s a time to remember those who have died from work-related injury or illness and to promote (while on a Sunday), a safe and healthy future in our workplaces (according to Safe Work Australia).
OzHelp advocates a wholistic approach, and is impacting more and more employees through its health and wellbeing screening program – Workplace Tune Up – which comes with an online screening tool that provides a complete diagnosis of the employee’s physical and mental wellbeing.
It is both personalised and private, and it surfaces serious issues that otherwise may go unnoticed and have dire consequences for all parties.
“What we are seeing loud and clear is a much stronger recognition across workplaces, regulators and government policy makers that there is a direct correlation between physical health and safety and psychological well-being,” explains OzHelp CEO Darren Black.
The screening tool asks a series of questions of employees that incorporates diet, nutrition, exercise, financial health and well-being. Employees are given personal feedback and the employer does not see individual results but they do receive a de-identified report on the health and wellness of their workplace. For example, how well are their employees sleeping at night? What level of bullying exists in the culture? How active is their workforce? How many are at risk of diabetes? What is the mental health landscape of their staff?
“Employers can start to make informed decisions about where they put priority on Work Health & Safety issues and also from a people and culture perspective,” explains Black. “It’s a proactive approach, which benefits the individual and the employer.”
Importantly, the screening tool red flags employees at immediate risk. If, for instance, someone ticks ‘yes’ to having had self-harming thoughts in the past two weeks, a health professional from OzHelp will contact them within 30 minutes. Anyone who takes part has the option to follow up with specialist counsellors, who are trained to listen deeply to concerns and provide recommendations for support and follow-up services.
While funded by the government and employers, OzHelp can establish rapport and trust with the workforce as a third party. “There are stigmas around mental health issues,” says Black “particularly male-dominated workplaces. There’s a lack of trust or confidence, that if you do have a concern and you identify that to HR, that could have career-limiting implications.”
“People have no issue with reporting or getting rehab for physical accidents or injuries, but when it comes to mental health issues they have a serious issue with putting their hand up.”
The Workplace Tune Up (WTU) has been evolving for the past three years, and was recently piloted in the Northern Territory on remote cattle farms outside Katherine, owned by Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC), with $10,000 of funding provided by the Northern Territory Department of Health as part of its suicide prevention plan.
The 30 workers who took part were overwhelmed with gratitude: (1) that CPC cared enough to do something about their mental health and, (2) that OzHelp had travelled so far to initiate the program. As a result, the WTU will be rolled out to all 17 of CPC’s cattle stations commencing in May with follow-ups at six-monthly intervals.
Typically, OzHelp has found around 40% of WTU respondents have some need for a follow up call. Some might be to answer simple questions but within that group there are a number who are significantly at risk. Industry feedback indicates that a suicide can cost an organisation between one and two million dollars in raw human resource costs alone, reports OzHelp in its submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Economic Impacts of Mental Ill-Health. OzHelp has urged the Productivity Commission to undertake further research into the “ripple effect” of suicide to determine the true costs.
Darren Black says the early adopters are building more impactful programs into employee mental health and well-being that go beyond running free yoga classes, feel-good health and well-being days, or just providing its workforce with EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) and free counselling. The days of “tick a box” wellness programs are on the way out and these are being superseded by wholistic programs that genuinely engage the workforce as part of integrated workplace culture and wellbeing programs that take mental health seriously.
“The same messaging is coming through regulators like Worksafe NSW,” says Black. “Their healthier workplace strategy endorses proactive engagement on the mental health side and the office of the Federal Safety Commissioner is already looking at ways to incorporate mental health into WHS compliance legislation.”
“It’s coming, it’s happening and it’s just a question of time and how quickly employers will adopt this voluntarily or be forced to adopt it. We advocate that every employer in the country should have policy and practice around employee mental health.”
TAKE ACTION FOR MEN’S HEALTH
Download OzHelp’s submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Economic Impacts of Mental Ill-Health
Find out more about OzHelp’s Workplace Tune Up Program