Creating a More Empathic Workplace Culture

By Dr Natalie Flatt

Failure to acknowledge an employee’s mental health can hurt productivity, professional relationships, and the bottom line: A total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress however,  businesses that take action will, on average, experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace.

Below are five ways managers can help drive a more empathetic culture:

Watch Your Words:

We all need to be aware of the words we use that can contribute to stigmatising zing mental health issues: wow – he’s so OCD. Downer Dan/Anxious Annie is at it again. Would you open up about a disorder or tell your team leader you needed time to see a therapist after hearing these words?

“Mental Health Days”:

We need to get more comfortable with the idea of suggesting and requesting days to focus on improving mental as well as physical health.

Encourage Open and Honest Conversations:

Create ‘safe spaces’ for team to open up about their current challenges without judgement or name calling or fear of being excluded.  Managers and leaders can explicitly encourage everyone to speak up when feeling overwhelmed or in need and set the tone by sharing their own experiences or examples of other people who have struggled with mental health issues, received help and recovered.

Know the Facts ​and Be Proactive: 

Access to on-line programs, resources, and education on stress management and resilience-building can offer teams some much needed support in times of need along with educating other staff.

Knowledge trumps discrimination. Mental illness is still poorly understood in society, so the better informed you are, the better equipped you are to identify and respond to stigma. Find out as much as you can about mental health and associated disorders, especially the myths, and share it.

Train People to Notice and Respond:

Assigning ‘Mental First Aid’ officers in your workplace has proven to increase people’s ability to recognise  the signs of someone who may be struggling with a mental health challenge  offer guidance to resources, listen non-judgmentally, offer reassurance, and assess the risk of suicide or self-harm.

Creating an empathic environment where staff feel able to talk openly about these issues, and know that if they do, they’ll be met with support and understanding, not stigma or discrimination, is now a significant advantage in all industries.




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