Nearly half the businesses in NSW have no mental health focus despite significant ROI

Mental health


By James Harkness

A survey of 2000 small, medium and large NSW businesses, undertaken by the state government, has revealed nearly half don’t have measures in place that specifically address mental health in the workplace.  

 Noting that people spend a third of their adult life at work, with the potential for significant mental health impacts, Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean described the statistic as “staggering”.  He said the finding from the government’s snapshot of mental health in NSW workplaces will be used to develop a long-term strategy for mentally healthy workplaces across the state.

Participating businesses were surveyed online and via telephone about their policies and procedures for preventing and managing mental health. In conducting the survey, the government used the “Mentally Healthy Workplaces in NSW Benchmarking Tool”, which outlines five levels of capability in creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace.

Minister Kean said the government also carried out a Return on Investment (ROI) Analysis of workplace mental health initiatives – such as Return to work (RTW) programs, workplace health program promotions and stress management programs – and their effect on reducing absenteeism and presenteeism (productivity) costs. Kean said the analysis demonstrates there is a “real opportunity for businesses to introduce valuable mental health programs” that have “a considerable impact on their…bottom line.”

Specifically, it was found that large businesses can get a return of more than $4 for every $1 invested in work health promotions due to reduced absenteeism and better productivity, while SMEs can expect a return of $2.86 for every $1 invested in work health promotions. In the case of stress management programs, large businesses can get a return of $2.39 for every $1 invested, while SMEs can get a return of $1.56. Meanwhile, SMES can get a return of $3.90 for every $1 invested in RTW programs, while large businesses can get a return of $3.74.

Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies said prevention and early intervention strategies are key to improving the mental health of workers right across NSW

“The State government is absolutely committed to improving mental health in NSW and our Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy is a critical part of our comprehensive approach to this important issue,” she said.

“Today’s findings show there is more work to be done to help businesses support staff with evidence-based mental health strategies in the workplace.

“This research will also help inform our Mentally Healthy Workplaces Summit next month so we can have productive discussions that address some of the key areas for improvement.”