Mental health deserves more than ‘lip service’

A recent survey has found that despite a growing emphasis on workplace wellbeing and inclusion, one in two Australian workers still lack confidence to bring their whole selves to work and feel lip service is being paid to their mental health.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Australian College of Applied Professions (‘ACAP’), the nationally representative survey of 1000 Australian workers revealed that 49% of Australian workers feel their workplace has introduced mental health and wellbeing initiatives to ‘tick boxes’, while day-to-day, their manager shows little if any genuine concern or empathy for their wellbeing.

Management lacks people skills

A lack of people skills among managers and leaders was a key driver behind worker concerns, the research found, with 65% of workers saying their manager/boss struggles in this area, primarily empathy (27%), effective communication (25%), active listening (21%), flexibility (21%), and emotional intelligence (20%).

Australian College of Applied Professions CEO George Garrop says many Australian workplaces could be doing more to acknowledge the unique values, needs, personalities and circumstances of their people.

“Managers and leaders could deliver a wealth of collective benefits through operating with key soft skills like empathy, emotional intelligence and active listening,” he says.

“At the Australian College of Applied Professions, we have a particular interest in the people skills required to make workplaces better environments to thrive in. Through programs such as ACAP’s recently launched MBA, managers and leaders can develop the critical soft skills they need to ensure their workforce feels valued, accepted and empowered to do their best.”

More needed to be done

The research also found that 47% – the equivalent of 5.6 million Australian workers – don’t feel comfortable enough to be open about their personal interests, values, culture and/or lifestyle at work and 53% of workers would hide a mental or physical health condition to avoid being judged or discriminated against.

“In an age where we are repeatedly told to ‘be ourselves’ and that ‘it’s OK not to be OK’ at work, these latest findings suggest that many Australians still feel very guarded in the workplace,” Mr Garrop says.

“While over the past two years, many organisations have boosted their mental health, wellbeing, diversity and inclusion initiatives, our research indicates that these initiatives are not always leading to meaningful outcomes or positive sentiment for workers.”

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