A STORM IS BREWING
It’s a problem we don’t like to talk about, that we find too embarrassing and complicated to confront head-on — and it’s costing the Australian economy an incredible $12 billion a year. It is estimated that between 20 and 30 per cent of the workforce will suffer from a serious mental health problem, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, at some point in their working life. Mental health has been found to affect job involvement, job satisfaction, loyalty, performance, absence, turnover and physical health. That’s why experts say this national crisis needs drastic action. These illnesses can generate huge costs, first for the employer if the worker is unable to communicate their problem and engages in “presenteeism” – turning up but not functioning properly, or has to take numerous sick days or long-term leave. The toll is usually greatest for the worker. Many sufferers lose their jobs, or find their sick pay quickly runs out. Then there’s the taxpayer, who has to pay extra for goods because of struggling employees, and fund mental health services. Pedro Diaz, from the Workplace Mental Health Institute, told news.com.au Australians need to future-proof their workload as well as relationships, lifestyle and finances. “We know an emotional storm is coming, it’s just a question of when. Are we future-proofing business? That’s what we do with managers, they need to be ready,” he says. The report also found that it was not the number of hours worked that mattered, but whether those hours accord with an individual’s work preferences. “If an individual’s preferences did not align with their working hours, they reported lower levels of satisfaction and poorer mental health than individuals whose preferences aligned with their working hours,” Australian Institute of Health and Welfare director Barry Sandison said.