As the global pandemic rages on and some Australians experience extended lockdowns, we’re seeing a heightened awareness around the state of our mental health and well-being.
The sad truth is – we’re not alone when it comes to feeling overwhelmed, tired, insecure, worried, lonely and isolated as a result of everything we’ve experienced in the last 18 months or so. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics - one in five Australians are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress linked to the pandemic, with young people, women and those living with a disability the most affected by poor mental health.
As we approach World Mental Health Day this October 10, there is, thankfully, some cause for optimism. According to the World Health Organisation, governments around the world have recognised the importance and need to scale quality mental health services.
Similarly, a recent report by the Black Dog Institute found that organisations in Australia are taking concrete steps to create more mentally healthy workplaces. The same report, however, also indicated that some of these policies don’t necessarily cater to the changing needs of Australian workers as well as to how work and the workplace have dramatically evolved in the last two decades.
That said, there is a silver lining in every cloud. The last 18 months have taught us to embrace changes, learn and adapt – and in this instance, create new mental health policies that are flexible and practical for all employees.
For example, at Avanade, we introduced the Alternative Work Week program to empower employees to space out their time in a way that works best for them. Employees who choose to participate in the program may opt to work their designated hours over four or four-and-half days in a condensed and focused fashion, providing them time to balance their work and life commitments. Other initiatives and benefits we’ve introduced to support our employees’ mental health and wellbeing include personal days off to disconnect and recharge, No Meeting Fridays, and professional counselling services. Additionally, to recognise Mental Health Month in Australia, we provided our employees an additional paid day off in October to focus on their mental health and wellbeing.
As part of our commitment to better support our people, we’ve also become a member of the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA) to raise awareness about the importance of mentally healthy workplaces, as well as provide more tools and resources to support our employees.
This October marks Mental Health Month. As individuals, let’s take this time to show that we care for one another. For organisations in the public and private sectors - this is an opportunity for us to really examine the issues around mental health, take action, and make resources more accessible so together we can make a genuine human impact on the quality of life and wellbeing of Australians.