Media releases

Mentally healthy workplaces vital to attract and keep the best staff

02 Jun 2014

Almost half of Australian workers have left a job because it was mentally unhealthy and workplace mental health is ranked second only to pay as the most important factor when choosing a new job, a new survey has shown.

The researchers surveyed over 1000 Australian workers and found not only do they value mentally healthy workplaces above things such as workplace culture and commuting time, they will leave a job if it impacts negatively on their mental health.

The survey has been released as part of Heads Up, an Australian-first campaign launched by Beyond Blue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance last month to encourage business leaders to take action in the workplace on mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Beyond Blue Chairman Jeff Kennett AC said the findings highlight the growing need for employers to create mentally healthy workplaces in order to attract and retain staff.

“If Australian businesses want to be employers of choice and attract and keep the best and most talented people, they have to create mentally healthy workplaces.” he said.

“This may seem obvious, but unfortunately too many workplaces still lack adequate mental health policies, which are the backbone of a workplace environment which supports the mental health of its staff. These latest findings show that employers need to listen to their workers, or they will leave. It adds to a growing body of evidence, including a recent PwC report, that shows if businesses are not investing in mental health they are losing staff, productivity and money.

“Not only is a mentally healthy workplace mindful of people’s workloads and the stressors they face, but staff with flexible working arrangements and who feel supported by their managers bring huge productivity gains for employers. This is a win-win situation and businesses cannot afford to ignore it. All employers should go to and learn what they need to do to help create a mentally healthy workplace and start reaping the benefits.”

The survey, conducted by Instinct and Reason, found that, while 31% of workers listed pay as the most important factor when choosing a job, second-placed was mental health in the workplace on 14%, ahead of culture and ability to discuss things openly (11%), reward and recognition (8%) and commute (8%). It also found that around one in five (17%) workers had left more than one job because of its poor mental health environment and that more than a quarter (28%) of workers had left one.

Other findings include:

  • Women are more likely than men to have left a job because of its poor mental health environment, with more than half (52%) having done so compared to less than half (44%) of men
  • Younger workers are more likely to leave a job because of its poor mental health environment, with more than half (58%) of people aged under 40 doing so. This compares to less than half (47%) aged 40-59 and around a quarter (27%) aged 60+
  • This is reflected in findings that show almost eight in 10 (79%) workers aged under 30 believe mentally healthy workplaces are important when looking for a job. This falls to 77% for those aged 30-39, 68% for those aged 40-59 and 63% for those aged 60+
  • Overall, seven in 10 (71%) workers think mentally healthy workplace are important when looking for a job, with a third (34%) saying they are essential or very important.
  • Since launching two weeks ago, Heads Up has so far seen more than 1000 businesses register and has attracted more than 13,000 people to the website. Mr Kennett said the campaign’s successful launch showed no one wants to spend their time at work feeling bad.

“It makes good business sense to have people look forward to going to work in a place where they are respected, treated well and are not overloaded with work and expected to meet impossible deadlines,” he said. “This leads to ongoing stress which can develop into depression and anxiety.”

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