Spring 2023 Newsletter

How to foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Discussions around mental health in the workplace have increased in the last few years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, disparities of equality in how people experience mental health were also demonstrated. In the US, compared to their white counterparts, people of Asian heritage are 51% less likely to use mental health services; people of Latino backgrounds are 25% less likely, and people with Black backgrounds are 21% less likely. A Forbes article concluded that mental health and diversity and inclusion are closely associated, such that employees from diverse backgrounds can encounter lack of representation, macro- and micro-aggressions, bias, discrimination, and other stressors that impact their mental health and wellbeing. 

Many strategies can be implemented for a safer and more inclusive environment. Firstly, support initiatives that bring about cultural awareness, diversity and inclusion, and belonging as a core values and ideals in the organisation’s culture. Next, behaviours that show support of diversity and inclusion should be praised and championed. Lastly, organisations can use their employee surveys, focus groups and feedback from employees of diverse backgrounds to drill down on engagement and inclusion issues. A comprehensive assessment of your organisation’s demographics and people processes can help to develop specific strategies to promote diversity and inclusiveness. 

Creating a workplace environment that welcomes diversity and inclusion is a continuing process, requiring ongoing effort and commitment. The benefits are increased employee engagement, productivity, creativity, innovation, attraction and retention of top talent, and improved customer satisfaction. Effective diversity and inclusion strategies will assist in better supporting employees, build a unique culture and create a thriving business where all employees feel safe, valued, connected and heard. 

The benefits of exercise on mental health at work

Today’s modern workplace is striving to prioritise the mental and physical wellbeing of employees because a healthy workforce is happier, more engaged, and more productive with less absenteeism. The benefits of exercise have been shown to improve aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and physical health, but regular exercise can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and boost cognitive function (e.g., better memory), all of which contribute to good mental health & wellbeing. 

Employers can adopt several measures which accommodate physical activity which value and promote exercise in the workplace. Employees may be encouraged to engage in active commuting methods like walking or biking, and facilities and flexible scheduling may be offered to accommodate these alternatives. On-site or virtual fitness classes such as yoga or strength training, or walking or running groups may encourage employees to exercise together, promoting not only physical activity, but also social interaction and community support. Organisations may also provide wellness subsidies that provide discounts for gym memberships, fitness classes or sports club fees, demonstrating commitment to employee’s health and wellbeing. Such strategies can encourage employee physical activity and exercise, impacting their physical and mental health, and thus improving their engagement and contribution to your workplace.

The connection between physical activity and mental health is clear and employers can have an important role in creating an environment that supports and encourages exercise. By implementing the strategies outlined above, organisations can create a more engaged and productive workforce that benefits both employees and organisations alike. 

Ways to support women’s mental health at work

While Australian women and men have similar rates of mental ill-health in general, women face specific challenges in the workplace. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. Pay inequity, caregiving responsibilities and gender-based violence are some of the contributing risk factors to common mental health issues for women. Many of these challenges are invisible, and may be compounded by intersectional factors such as race and gender identification. The additive effect of all these factors means that gender adds a substantial layer of complexity to the picture of women’s mental health in the workplace.

Organisations are well placed to support women’s mental health in the workplace. Firstly, employers can ensure that women are paid fairly and equitably, fostering an environment where women feel valued and respected. Secondly, women face unique mental health challenges stemming from societal expectations, work-life balance pressures and gender bias. Organisations can support women by providing mental health resources and fostering a culture that promotes wellbeing. Lastly, women still bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities for children and elders so flexibility is important. Such measures can ease the burdens encountered by women in the workplace, thereby improving their mental health and wellbeing and improving their productivity and engagement. 

Although mental health and wellbeing for women has come a long way, there is still much to do. The opportunities to enhance the experience for women at your organisation are relatively easy to implement with little cost impact, while having the potential to significantly attract and retain talented women.