workplace mental health

Active workplaces can help boost employee mental health

Workplace mental health is increasingly in the spotlight, and rightly so. We’re encouraging Aussie employers to consider the value of exercise and physical activity to boost workplace mental health.

Mental health in Australia

Almost half of all Australians experience a mental illness in their lifetime, with 1 in 5 adults affected every year. The statistics are staggering:

  • 1 in 7 Australians will experience depression in their lifetime
  • One quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime
  • 1 in 8 Australians is currently experiencing high or very high psychological distress
  • 1 in 6 women will experience postnatal depression
  • More than eight people die each day in Australia by suicide
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44


Mental health in the workplace

The increase in mental illness is affecting employees and businesses alike.

91% of Australian employees say they believe that mental health in the workplace is important. Despite this, only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy and only about half believe their senior leader values mental health.

Research shows that 1 in 5 Australians has taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. The financial toll on companies and organisations adds up, with mental health conditions estimated to cost the Australian business over $10 billion dollars every year.

These costs are part of the reason that many business owners and organisational leaders are starting to drive policies and practices that promote mental health in the workplace.

active workplace

What can workplaces do?

A mentally healthy workplace is “one that protects and promotes mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety, for the benefit of the individual, organisation and community.”

There’s plenty of benefits for businesses that value mental health and provide appropriate resources to their employees. Workplaces that employees feel are “mentally healthy” experience almost half the rate of absenteeism. Productivity is also higher and employee moral is better, leading to higher staff retention rates.

There’s lots that business can do to create mentally healthy workplaces, and promoting an active workplace is one of them…

Creating active workplaces

Being physically activity plays a key role in establishing and maintaining positive workplace mental health. A regular exercise routine can boost work performance, improving cognition, mental flexibility and memory while reducing stress and anxiety. Research also shows that just one hour of exercise a week can help to protect against depression.

Australian workplaces should be proactive in their approach by promoting active workplaces. There are easy ways for management to introduce more physical activity in the workplace, including:

  • Encouraging walking or stand up meetings
  • Allow flexible work hours to provide employees the chance to make time for physical activity
  • Educate staff as to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle
  • Invest in standing desks


More resources

Exercise Right offers a range of resources to help employees understand how to be more active in their respective industry.

Business should get in touch with their local accredited exercise professional to offer education and/or physical activity sessions to their staff. Exercise & Sports Science Australia offer a search function to help companies find an appropriately qualified expert.

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