The Argument

The Argument for an integrated approach to Mental Health and Resilience in Australian Workplaces

The Australian Workplace Health and Safety Act (2011) creates a requirement for businesses to provide a safe workplace both physically and psychologically, and, while Australia's track record for physical WHS is the envy of the world, we still have some work to do in the psychological safety area.


The change in legislation acknowledges the real and significant risk to mental health posed by Australian workplaces (report) and has real teeth (report). This is a good thing for businesses as psychological health is the largest single unmet challenge in WHS, affecting 1 in 5 workers at any given time. These injuries have identifiable risk factors including stress, bullying and harassment and workplace trauma.


Traditionally, psychological health solutions have focused on short term 'wellness' programs such as weight loss for employees and assistance in quitting smoking. As in other areas of WHS, isolated solutions that do not change organisational culture are rarely effective, and have been shown to fail in addressing the root of psychological risk factors (report).


It's time to think differently about psychological health in Australian workplaces.

An integrated approach to building a resilient psychological health culture

The problem is large, complex and far reaching, and therefore the solution must be powerful, well thought out and organisation wide. To really redress the risks associated with psychological health a multi-tiered approach is required with commitment at the highest levels in order to identify and remove issues around:


 * Awareness of mental illness and associated stigma

 * Workplace support

 * Organisational Justice

 * Discrimination, bullying and harassment


As in all WHS, reactive problem solving is only part of the picture. An integrated solution must focus on creating a positive health culture. Stanford University recommends a psychological health culture where:


 * Co-workers feel trusted, valued and supported

 * The workforce is engaged and resilient

 * Workers have a work-life balance

 * Job expectations are clear and reasonable



However, achieving these outcomes is difficult. The journey to a positive health culture is arduous, and there are very real casualities along the way. Additionally, numerous specialist skills are needed for short periods, and it is often difficult for businesses to obtain and co-ordinate these skillsets into a larger program. Certainly, having experience in building and implementing these types of integrated programs is a huge asset to organisations.


Pschological health programs represent an investment on the part of the business into its human capital, but it is an investment with excellent return on investment. As part of the government's push toward mental health in WHS, a return on investment study was undertaken (report) which suggested the average return on investment for mental health programs was $2.30 per dollar spent. Return on investment of up to $15 per dollar spent was recorded. Our experience is at the upper end of this scale, and our integrated approach to psychological health has other benefits. Our programs result in reduced staff turnover, reducing training costs and increased engagement resulting in higher productivity as well as increased capacity for problem solving, a highly sought commodity in Australia's highly competitive and fast changing business environment.


In short, to effectively address issues around mental health and build positive environments for psychological health in Australian workplaces, an integrated approach is needed. Vander Wall & Repaci has the experience and the specialist expertise to assist organisations with this important transition.

Why Vander Wall & Repaci?

Vander Wall & Repaci is the Australian arm of an international consultancy which has for 30 years partnered with organisations worldwide to provide solutions around psychologically healthy environments: solutions that were built in environments where both improved health and positive return on investment were necessary. Our solutions create results.


By bringing together skillsets and experience from diverse fields, including health professionals, business, education and science, we provide an effective toolbox to help solve problems. We use this wealth of experience to partner with WHS co-ordinators, leadership and team members to understand the specific needs of a business, craft custom solutions to address those needs and move business culture.


We urge you to consider Vander Wall & Repaci because we are experts at helping to answer the question, "How good can work be?"