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Fostering wellbeing in the workplace

Using a case study to highlight the importance of workplace support for mental health, we underscore the significant cost of mental ill-health to businesses, the rising awareness of mental health issues, and the positive impact of organisational support.

Roger was an auditor at a large multi-national consulting firm. He was a conscientious worker; confident, capable and always positive. But Roger’s cheerful smile concealed a private burden.

For years, Roger had struggled with depression and anxiety. Yet each day, he put on a brave face at work while sadness and apprehension shadowed him.

According to Beyond Blue, nearly half of us will experience mental health concerns in our lifetime. A 2019 inquiry by the Australian Productivity Commission found that mental ill-health costs Australian businesses up to $180 billion per year through lost productivity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing stress and anxiety related health issues increased dramatically, often resulting from isolation and remote work arrangements.

As Roger’s private battle worsened, it began to overwhelm him. He became forgetful, struggled to concentrate and missed deadlines. Such physical symptoms left him feeling even more depressed, and undermined his self-esteem, leaving him with a sense of hopelessness.

Mary-Ann, Roger ’s manager realised something was amiss when Roger made a rookie mistake on a simple task. She decided to check-in with him over coffee.

Businesses nowadays have a greater awareness of employee mental health and its impacts, than in the past. Nevertheless, many people, fearing judgement and discrimination, continue to suffer in silence.

Relaxed in the neutrality of a café, Roger cautiously confided that he’d been struggling with feelings of anxiety and despondency for some time but had been too afraid to speak up.

Mary-Ann listened patiently, gently encouraging him to talk about his struggles.

Surprised by her empathy, Roger admitted that he’d been feeling so overwhelmed in group settings that he’d become withdrawn and was unable to contribute to team meetings. He’d even been avoiding social events with colleagues and friends.

In recent years, there has been a shift in attitudes towards mental health in the workplace. Factors such as education, support groups, regulatory policy changes and organisational culture have contributed.

Mary-Ann assured Roger that she would fully support him in seeking assistance, and together they would develop a work design to accommodate his needs, including flexible hours and regular one-on-one check-ins.

She explained that their organisational policy authorised her to assess Roger’s specific needs in relation to:

  • his tasks, responsibilities and the people and teams he interacted with,
  • his levels of frustration, stress and boredom,
  • appropriate breaks and fatigue recovery,
  • enabling his sense of control and flexibility over his workload,
  • implementing policies and procedures for responding to bullying, stress and harassment.

With Roger’s approval, Mary-Ann facilitated a meeting between him and Jack, the company’s HR Workplace Health and Safety Manager. Jack provided Roger with information around the company’s mental health policy and external counselling services.

Roger began seeing a professional counsellor. This, combined with the support and resources provided by the company, saw Roger become more confident and able to cope; his smiling face was no longer a façade.

Mental health touches every facet of your life, from your work – how you work and how you feel about work – as well as your life outside of work.

For Roger, his gradual recovery has been a positive transition that has pervaded not only his work life, but his home and social life as well.

Roger considers himself a work in progress, but he also says that every day is a better day because he’s no longer fighting his battles alone.

Mental health does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or other factors.

Organisations like Beyond Blue and Lifeline can provide assistance if you’re feeling as though life is getting on top of you. Additionally, they provide advice to employers wishing to ensure their workplaces are supportive environments.

If you’re feeling unsettled at work, or you’re struggling to cope, reach out to your HR department or your manager for guidance.


Since regaining control of his personal well-being, Roger has undertaken the company’s newly created role of Mental Wellness Officer (MWO). He has not relinquished his former duties, but in his capacity as MWO, he provides direction and help to others in the organisation struggling with workplace mental health.