VIC: workplaces benefit by boosting mental health

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 7 March, 2022 - 12:45
Policy & legislation

More than 11,000 workers have benefited from mental health initiatives funded in the first round of grants under WorkSafe Victoria’s WorkWell program, reducing absenteeism, and increasing worker retention, satisfaction and wellbeing.

Five programs that shared $3.3 million in round one funding through the WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund have now been completed.

The $25 million fund was part of the $50 million WorkWell program, which also includes an online toolkit and learning networks to connect, businesses and workers with mental health experts, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director health and safety Narelle Beer.

“Across the WorkWell program we’re seeing positive trends among employers for improving knowledge, attitudes and confidence in identifying and addressing mental health issues; and practice changes in leaders, networks and workplaces,” Beer said.

The Mental Health Improvement Fund offers large-scale investment to organisations and industry groups to promote mental health and wellbeing and prevent mental injury.

Round one projects include Working Well in Wellington, at Central Gippsland Health, which created a new health worker rostering tool that flags high-risk schedules, such as inadequate breaks between shifts. The tool has since been adapted for other local workplaces.

Another project, the Arts Wellbeing Collective, created a series of mental health webinars with industry-specific advice and techniques. The sessions supported arts workers across 400 organisations to navigate change and uncertainty during COVID-19 cancellations and closures – with webinars accessed more than 1800 times.

Beer said funded programs target vulnerable worker groups including young and ageing workers, frontline workers, and those in industries in transition.

“Working in partnership with industry means we’re creating industry-wide, sustainable change to address the work-related factors that contribute to stress at work,” she said.

“Round one programs have supported workers in 498 workplaces across the arts industry, call centres, shift workers, workers transitioning to parenthood, and workers in small to medium businesses.”

Since its launch in May 2017, WorkWell has achieved extensive engagement, with more than 12,400 workplaces and 55,900 individual participants and the potential to reach 2.53 million Victorian workers.

WorkWell’s emerging outcomes report shows participating businesses are reporting favourable outcomes, including reduced absenteeism, increased likelihood of staff retention and increased job performance.