Unfortunately, all of us have probably been affected by the impact of mental illness, whether we have experienced symptoms ourselves, or whether it be a family member or work colleague.

The impact on mental illness in the workplace is a compelling reason for employers to implement mental health wellbeing programs at work.

  • $4.7 billion in absenteeism
  • $6.1 billion in presenteeism
  • $145.9 million in worker’s compensation

The Headsup Organisation estimates that a positive return on investment of 2.3 is possible through implementing effective actions to create a mentally healthy workplace.


There is a growing body of evidence about the benefits of mental health wellbeing programs. In health we talk about risk factors and protective factors.

For physical conditions this is well understood, personal risk factors are the non-modifiable pre-determinants of our health such as

  • Gender
  • Family history/genetics

Protective factors include things we can modify such as

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Not smoking

Risk factors and protective factors for mental illness may not be as well understood. Modifiable risk factors for poor mental health in the workplace include

  • High workload, or not enough work
  • Tight deadlines
  • Bullying/conflict at work
  • Job insecurity/redundancy/job loss
  • Lack of support
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Unclear work role
  • Working in isolation
  • Shift work
  • Exposure to trauma

Protective factors for mental health in the workplace include

  • Effective mental health policies and programs
  • Good leadership from management
  • Good relationships with managers
  • Strong team morale
  • Involvement in decision-making
  • Flexible working conditions
  • Access to support at work, including from health and safety reps
  • Effective training
  • Control of work tasks
  • Effective rehabilitation and return to work policies and procedures