The business case for mental resilience

QBE Insurance Australia held a Workers Compensation Mental Health seminar in partnership with EML featuring R U OK? board member and workplace mental wellness expert, Graeme Cowan, as guest speaker.

Imparting three key recommendations, Cowan set the scene for senior business leader’s success based on enabling workplace psychological safety.

There’s an inextricable link between business and culture.

“And a caring culture is great for business,” claimed R U OK? board member and workplace mental wellness expert, Graeme Cowan.

The universal factor determining whether people feel engaged at work is if they feel their manager cares about them as a person and their wellbeing, according to Cowan.

The evidence speaks for itself.

There are 7,500 Australians compensated for work-related mental disorders every year, equating to $480M annually paid out in workers’ compensation claims across the nation, according to Safe Work Australia.

In addition, the total cost of depression to Australian employers through presenteeism and absenteeism is estimated to be $6.3 billion per annum.

An awareness of the linkage between mental health and the workplace in Australia may be still growing, but for Cowan, the business case for employee mental resilience is clear.

“If a CEO is interested in high performing teams – and if they’re not, they shouldn’t be a CEO – having a supportive and psychologically safe environment is critical,” said Cowan.

What that means is that team members feel respected. They feel they can contribute, they feel that they can try new things at work and can make mistakes that won’t sacrifice their support from their team.

“There’s a growing greater recognition that having employees with good mental health equates to putting fuel in the tank,” explained Cowan.

“The more people that agree that their supervisor at work seems to care about them as a person in an organisation, the higher the profit, the productivity, the customer service levels and the longer someone stays with the company,” he added.

“There’s always restructures and mergers and acquisitions in the corporate world. And that can cause a lot of stress. If a leader doesn’t keep their team engaged through that change, they can expect a less than ideal result. Mental health should be on every CEO’s agenda.”

Companies should address mental health on three levels within the workplace, according to Cowan.

  • Individual level

    Protect yourself most importantly and then look out for your peers, he said.

    “The best thing that anyone can do is to live the right life themselves. Then you’re in the best position to look out for your colleagues if you notice that they’re looking stressed, burnt out or acting in an atypical way.”

  • Team level

    “I think more than ever in today’s workplace, everyone is a leader and everyone has the potential to influence their team and their organisation,” Cowan said. “If you care for the person on your right and on your left, that makes you a leader.”

  • Organisational level

    For Cowan, this is in terms of remuneration and bonuses.

    “That’s because performance management is linked to that. Having organisation’s measuring mental resilience and having executive team’s bonuses linked to a mental resilience and wellbeing index is the ultimate.”

  • Sources:

    Psychosocial safety climate and better productivity in Australian workplaces: Costs, productivity, presenteeism, absenteeism report November 2016