Risk Based Approach to Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing

Ivan Reid 13 October, 2020

As you know 2020 has been a challenging year. Many people have lost their jobs or had to work from home and we have been more physically isolated than ever. Work has a massive impact on our mental health, so targeting our mental wellbeing in the workplace has never been more important. Using a risk based approach to address this preexisting, yet now exacerbated, decrease in mental health is recommended by WorkCover(3) and will ensure that we look after each other in the workplace.


Since COVID(4):

- 78% report worsening of mental health
- 40% increase in contact with Beyond Blue
- 22% increase in contact with Lifeline

What workers report(4):

- Lack of knowledge about mental health resources: ~50% 
- Workplace Bullying: ~65%
- Musculoskeletal pain: ~50%
- Poor sleep patterns: ~70%
- Work conflict: ~30%
- Burnout: ~50% 


A Risk Based Approach 


Image adapted from the publication “Work-related psychological health and safety”, 2019 (3)


Step 1 & 2: Identifying & Assessing the Risks(2):

- Intervene early: Know the signs of worker distress
- Asking “R U OK”: Ask, listen, encourage & check in
- People at work Survey: Have your employees complete this survey to assist with gaining insight into your workplace’s mental health, by identifying psychosocial workplace hazards (link)
- Focus groups: help identify and analyse emerging psychosocial hazards and inform future planning. They’re ideal for consulting with workers and building data of people’s perceptions of their workplace environment (link)


Step 3: Examples of Risk Controls(2,3):

- Resources: ensure availability of mental health tools and usage is not frowned upon
- Establish a positive workplace culture: Supportive & capable leaders, supervisor training, implement good workplace policies
- Job burnout: manage job demands & provide role clarity
- Pain: ergonomic reviews and work modification
- Poor sleep patterns: policies around good work life balance & stress management tools
- Establish return to work plans for workers: modified workloads, scheduled check ups, suitable involvement of health professionals.


Step 4: Reviewing Control Measures(2):

- Consultation: with workers & representatives
- Repeat questionnaires
- Similar tools used to identify/assess risks


So what are the benefits…. 

Image adapted from the publication “Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit”, 2018(2)


The 5 key tips for mentally healthy workplaces(2):

  1. Identify and control psychosocial risks 
  2. Promote and model self-care and balance 
  3. Recognise the signs 
  4. Support workers when they need it 
  5. Stay in touch with anyone who is injured 

The above risk based approach to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is a great place to start. As with all initiatives, once areas of improvement are identified, the hardest component is then ensuring sustainable positive change. Investing in your greatest assets, your employees, always pays dividends. Partnering with a company, such as Employ Health, helps to assist your workplace along this journey, as short term, stop-gap, projects don’t deliver the change needed.


  1. Downloadable posters, factsheets and shareables | Mental Health Month. (2020). Retrieved 8 October 2020, from http://mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au/downloadable-resources/
  2. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. (2018). Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
  3. Safe Work Australia. (2019). Work-related psychological health and safety. Safe Work Australia.
  4. Mental Health & Wellbeing: A Risk Based Approach. (2020). Retrieved 8 October 2020, from http://youtube.com/watch?v=JMXD9UcDpEc&feature=youtu.be