Why managing risks to mental health is important in your workplace


As a business owner, you have a duty under WHS laws to manage risks to your workers’ mental health arising from their work.  It will also help you:

  • reduce staff absenteeism and lost working days
  • increase staff productivity

You’re legally required to look after your workers' mental health under a variety of laws. This includes:

  • Providing a physically and mentally safe workplace and managing any risks to the mental health of your workers arising from the work of your business (WHS laws).
  • Preventing discrimination against workers with a mental health condition (anti-discrimination laws).
  • Protecting your workers’ personal information – don't tell anyone about your workers’ mental health conditions unless they agree to it (privacy laws).
  • Not taking any unfair action against someone because of their mental health condition (fair work laws).

Beyond meeting your legal obligations, you may wish to implement initiatives to promote good mental health. These can have positive impacts on your business.

1. Find out how to manage risks to mental health


Risks to mental health can be managed through the same process as you use for physical risks:

  • identify the hazards
  • assess the risks
  • control the risks
  • continually review the control measures to make sure they are working

As with physical risks, you should involve and consult your workers throughout this process. Your workers are a great source of information on the risks in their work and options to manage these.

To identify the hazards:

Stress is the physical, mental and emotional reactions you have when the demands of your job exceed your ability or resources to cope. Stress itself is not an injury but if prolonged or severe can cause psychological and physical injury.

2. Look after yourself


With the pressures of running a business you may find you’re getting stressed and susceptible to mental health challenges. Here are some ways to reduce your stress levels:

  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance, make time for family and friends and activities you enjoy.
  • Exercise regularly to help boost your energy levels and improve stamina.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthily and getting enough sleep.
  • Allow yourself to say ‘no’ so you don’t over commit yourself.
  • Plan events ahead of time, so you know what’s coming up.
  • Find ways to relax and unwind, such as meditation, listening to music or incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine.
  • Get support when you need it – talk to someone and ask for help.

Ahead for Business

Ahead for Business helps small business owners take action on their own mental health and wellbeing. It has a website and app that can help you to understand your mental health, manage business stress and take action.

You can get tailored recommendations, information and programs by completing the 2 minute business stress survey and the 5 minute mental health check-up.

3. Promote good mental health


Create a mentally healthy workplace

In a mentally healthy workplace, people feel supported, happy coming to work and comfortable talking about mental health. The Heads up website has a range of resources to help you to:

Promote mental health initiatives

As a business owner, you can help promote mental health in your business by:

  • increasing staff awareness of mental health conditions
  • encouraging help seeking behaviour in your staff
  • reducing the stigma associated with mental illness in your workplace
  • encouraging people to take ownership of their mental health and wellbeing