I am a worker

Interventions that work

To improve mental health in your workplace, it’s important to use actions that are supported by evidence.

Some interventions may benefit everyone, while others will be more effective and economical for certain teams or individuals.

When using interventions to improve mental health, it’s important to look at the big picture and consider how they work together. This is known as an integrated approach.

If you want to make sure interventions are going to work before investing or implementing them more broadly, you can pilot them in a smaller group or in one location. You can then see the benefits, make improvements, and then extend them across the organisation, adapting to the needs of different teams or locations.

A person can move between mental health, mental ill-health and illness over time, so different interventions will support workers depending on how healthy they are now. Sometimes, you might find prevention is needed, other times recovery support might be what’s called for.

The University of Sydney reviewed evidence for workplace interventions in 2017 and found the following interventions can improve mental health at work1&2.

Design work to minimise harm

Good work design is about planning and creating jobs, work processes and environments that are healthy, safe and productive. It’s about managers using strategies to prevent or reduce the impact of factors on the workers' mental health and using appropriate actions to tailor jobs to be more manageable and better resourced.

If you're a worker, you can talk to your manager about how work design may support you to do your job more effectively and stay healthy at work.

Find out how to use good work design in your workplace and read how Westpac has used flexibility to help its people and the business thrive.

Evidence indicates you can increase the control workers have over their work to improve mental health through:

  • flexible working options - find out more about how to design work to support mental health, or
  • providing opportunities for workers to contribute to decisions that impact them e.g. through education workshops or problem-solving committees.

Build organisational resilience through good management

The following interventions can help improve resilience of your workplace:

  • train managers in mental health to improve their knowledge, confidence and skills – to identify early signs of illness, have conversations about mental health, be supportive, and connect team members to support when they need it.
  • train workers in mental health to increase their knowledge, reduce stigma; and improve supportive attitudes, behaviours and confidence to support others for example Mental Health First Aid training.

Enhance personal resilience

You can increase the knowledge and skills of managers and workers to stay mentally fit through:

  • Workplace health promotion: this may include programs, activities, events, tools, communications or resources that promote mentally and physically healthy attitudes and behaviours at work.
  • Stress management programs supported by evidence: through training programs or resources like eHealth apps, managers and workers can learn effective strategies to stay healthy at work.
  • Mindfulness programs or tools: in face-to-face classes or using eHealth apps that are supported by evidence, managers and workers can use mindfulness to improve their mental health.
  • Promote, encourage and support workers to stay physically active at work.

Promote and facilitate early help-seeking

You can encourage managers and workers to get support early when they need it with:

  • Wellbeing checks with accredited practitioners: can help identify early signs of mental illness and connect workers with support services to improve their recovery.
  • Training for workers in mental health first aid.
  • Workplace counselling with accredited practitioners who can provide tailored support and help workers develop knowledge and skills to recover and stay well at work.

Support recovery and return to work

The most effective interventions to support recovery at work were:

  • Work-focused psychological therapy programs where trained clinicians work with the worker about aspects of returning to work to improve recovery outcomes. Workplaces are legally required to have a policy in place to support a worker to return to work after an injury.

Read the full study for more information. A return-on-investment study also shows how investing in workplace mental health can reduce costs and boost productivity for your business.

As part of the NSW mentally healthy workplaces strategy 2018-2022, small businesses and workplaces in high-risk industries will have access to interventions that are supported by evidence. Stay tuned for updates.

  1. The University of Sydney, Review of Evidence of Interventions to Reduce Mental Ill-health in the Workplace
  2. Petrie, K et al 2017, ‘A framework to create more mentally healthy workplaces: A viewpoint’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, in press as cited in 1. above.