Work and mental health

Good work helps mental health and wellbeing. It can contribute to your daily activity. Your sense of purpose. Your income. And your social connection. But poor working conditions can harm your mental health and wellbeing.
Illustration of two people talking in front of a laptop on a desk

Mentally healthy work and why it matters

Work can come in many different forms. But mentally healthy workplaces generally have a few things in common. They:
  • Protect against risks to mental health. Mentally healthy work prevents harm to your mental health. Among other things, this means fair workloads. Fair work practices. And a safe environment.
  • Promote wellbeing and the positive aspects of work. Mentally healthy work means things such as fairness, inclusion, and employee development. Good culture thrives from good work.
  • Support people with poor mental health. In a mentally healthy workplace, your mental health is prioritised. Awareness, capability, commitment, and meaningful support exist. To help workers feel better, earlier.

Key facts - mental health at work

In Australia, there have been significant improvements to become more mentally healthy at work, but there is more work to do.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people experience poor mental health each year. Nearly half of us will experience poor mental health during our lives.
  • Many people spend a third of their lives at work.
  • Poor mental health costs the Australian economy from $12.2 to 22.5 billion each year (according to the Australian Government Productivity Commission).
  • Work is a key setting to improve and support mental health.

For businesses, mentally healthy work:
  • improves productivity
  • improves commercial outcomes
  • helps attract and retain staff.

Research has shown that investment in mental health has a positive return on investment. This can range from an average of $2.30 upwards for each dollar invested.

Learn more about this research on the Mentally Healthy Workplaces website

"I suddenly needed to take my career more seriously. I needed to act and sound more professional, and less like the goofball I usually was... it took a lot of energy out of me trying to be someone I wasn’t, and this hurt my wife. I was not the man she fell in love with."

Iframe content loading...

What influences mental health at work

A range of work factors can influence your mental health. These include:
  • clarity on what you’re doing
  • the effort required (job demands)
  • fair treatment
  • good support
  • how work is recognised and rewarded
  • your environment
  • your relationships and dealings with people (including clients or the public)
  • having the training, skills and tools to perform your work
  • communication and change at work
  • exposure to traumatic events or information.
In Australia, workplaces need to manage factors at work which can harm mental health.

Learn more about what influences your mental health at work on the SafeWork Australia website.

Non-work contributors to mental health

Building a mentally healthy workplace

Good work design

‘Work design’ includes your work tasks and activities. The people you interact with. The responsibilities you have. And how all of those things are organised.

Work design can influence how you feel at work. Poor work design can add frustration, stress, or boredom. Good work design can help you feel clear, organised and able to deliver.

Learn more about good work design on the Comcare website.

Find examples of work design on the Centre for Transformative Work Design website.

Practical tools to improve mental health at work

The National Workplace Initiative helps people navigate the range of tools and resources in Australia for mental health at work.

Explore the tools and resources on the Mentally Healthy Workplaces portal.

Learn more about the National Workplace Initiative.

The key to change

Three key things that drive mental health at work:
  • commitment from leadership
  • participation for everyone
  • ongoing communication.

Your mental health at work

Much of your work is likely impacted by others. And it can take time to change. There are things you can do straight away to help protect and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

Supporting someone at work

If you're concerned about someone at work, talk to them.

When it comes to the actual conversation, there's no one ‘right way’ to express things. What matters is that you’re thoughtful and genuine.

Learn how to support someone with a mental health condition

We have practical resources to help you decide what to say and do to help someone feel better. We’ve also got tips for looking after yourself. 

Illustration of two men speaking at a desk

Rights and obligations

In Australia, there are protections and responsibilities relating to mental health in discrimination, privacy, and work health and safety laws.


Work health and safety

Workplace health and safety (WHS) laws require work to be reasonably safe for all. This includes measuring and managing risks to mental health.

Learn more about WHS and mental health on the SafeWork Australia website.

You can find links to your local Work Health and Safety Regulator at the bottom of this page.



Disability discrimination laws make it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities, including mental health conditions.

Discrimination includes both direct and indirect actions. So not making reasonable adjustments to support your needs can be a type of discrimination.

Find information about the Disability Discrimination Act on the Australian Human Right Commission website.

Learn about reasonable adjustments.

The Fair Work Act prohibits an employer from taking action against a worker for discriminatory reasons.

Learn more about protection from discrimination at work on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.


Under Australian privacy law, a worker’s personal information is generally protected and can only be shared in certain circumstances. This includes information about your mental health.

Find information about workplace privacy on the Fair Work Ombudsman website

Further resources

Staying well at work

  • Mindspot – for free online personalised mental health care.
  • Headgear – a free smartphone app by Black Dog Institute which guides you through a 30–day mental fitness challenge.
  • Smiling Mind – providing free and accessible tools to support healthy minds.

Building mentally healthy work

Illustration of two people in a hot air balloon

Subscribe to receive info about mental health, keeping well and stories from our community.

Subscribe to newsletter