An employer’s basic legal responsibility is to not discriminate against an employee because of mental illness and to provide reasonable workplace adjustments to support employees with mental illness. However, many managers and supervisors do not know what this actually translates to in terms of behaviour, actions and supports. There is little balance in typical responses with some employers providing so much flexibility and support to employees with mental health issues that it negatively impacts on the organisation. For example, other employees may have to carry too onerous a workload, or adjustments to working hours may have a negative impact on operational needs, and so on. And yet other organisations are so inflexible that they won’t even make small adjustments, such as allowing an employee to work flexible hours to attend medical appointments.
We interview three organisations with very different operational needs and looked at the ways they are trying to strike this important balance in responding to the mental health and wellbeing with their staff. Todays article looks at mental health in the health insurance industry.
HBF has been providing insurance products for Western Australians since 1941 and currently has just over 1 million members who are served by 900 employees across the state / Australia. HBF’s mantra is that a healthy body can do amazing things, and a few years ago they set out to deliver on this promise with their own employees, as well as their members. Jennifer McCall is HBF’s Employee Wellbeing and Recognition Coordinator and has a keen focus on mental health being an integral element of overall health and wellbeing of their employees.
TB: Why is mental health a priority area for your organisation?
We take pride in looking after the health and wellbeing of our employees, we want them to come to work healthy and happy and we provide an environment where our people are empowered and supported to achieve a state of wellbeing. In doing so, they are passionate brand advocates, committed to helping members live healthier and happier lives.
TB: How long have you been focusing on this area?
We have had a strong focus on mental health since 2013, also as part of our wellbeing framework we focus on emotional wellbeing.
What are the various initiatives you use in your organisation to support mental health?
- Wellbeing Framework – HBF Balance which provides activities such as yoga, pilates and meditation.
- Lunch & Learns on Mental Health Awareness and Support.
- Structured training programs in Mental Health First Aid and Building Resilience
- We support mental health services/ agencies through fundraising through workplace giving and informal dress days.
- Proactively promote the use of our Employee Assistance Program and their online resources.
- Health Safety & Wellbeing Policy
- Support and provisions are afforded through our Injury Management Policy and procedures.
TB: What are the benefits to your organisation of having this focus on mental wellness?
Creating a culture where people are aware of their mental wellbeing and the importance of staying mentally well, this in turn assists our employees to recognise mental health illness and to manage their own mental health more effectively. Our employees feel supported and confident that HBF values them.
TB: What have the challenges been when implementing your mental wellness program? How have you overcome these challenges?
It’s been important to have executive support for implementing our mental wellness program and so that any barriers or challenges faced were easily resolved and supported by the Executive team. It was important to have support and engagement from the top down.
TB: What are your plans moving forward?
Whilst mental health illnesses are common, we recognise that there is still some misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental health issues in the community and indeed our workplace. As such, we are committed to reducing the stigma surrounding these issues by engaging in regular strategies to improve mental health literacy and support at our workplace.
TB: Is there anything specifically about working with Blooming Minds that has been beneficial to your organisation?
Blooming Minds has helped us achieve an awareness around mental health, breaking down the stigma. They provide quality training to our People Leaders and First Aiders to ensure they are equipped to deal with any mental health issues that arise in our workplace. We are supported by Blooming Minds and consider their advice when implementing any initiatives here at HBF.
For the full article and more workplace mental health information go to https://issuu.com/bloomingminds/docs/bm_apr_16_issue3