Young man talking while attending group therapy at medical centre.
Psychological Health and Safety at Work

The impact of mental health on business continuity

Published: July 12, 2022
Young man talking while attending group therapy at medical centre.
Psychological Health and Safety at Work

Mental illness can impose huge costs on workplaces via absenteeism and presenteeism, poor employee retention, and increased training costs. Conversely, psychologically unsafe workplaces can contribute to the incidence of mental illness and injury in employees. According to a May 2021 report from the Australia Institute Centre for Future Work, the cost of workplace-related mental illness is between $15 billion and $17 billion per year. Businesses simply cannot afford to ignore mental health concerns.

ISO has acknowledged the importance of psychologically healthy and safe workplaces with the release last year of ISO 45003:2021 – Occupational health and safety – Psychological Health & Safety at work, Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks. This standard provides guidance on managing psychological health in the workplace, defines psychosocial hazards (including bullying, fatigue, mental stress, isolation, workplace violence, and customer aggression), and provides a structured framework to develop, implement, maintain, and continually improve mental health and psychological safety in the workplace.

ISO 45003:2021 can help businesses identify, assess, and proactively manage and mitigate psychosocial hazards. While the standard is not certifiable (unlike ISO 45001:2018), an understanding of this standard can help employers mitigate their compliance risk and meet their duty of care obligations. Additionally, legislation in Australia is changing, with new Codes of Practice being introduced in different states to address psychological health and safety risk assessment, and a new Regulation being introduced in Victoria which requires organisations to maintain prevention plans for psychological health and safety hazards and their associated risks.

The cost of not addressing psychosocial risks in the workplace is growing. According to Safe Work Australia, 7,200 Australians are compensated each year for work-related mental health conditions. Compensation payouts for work-related mental health conditions are approximately $540 million annually. 

How does this impact business continuity?

Businesses that fail to provide psychologically healthy and safe workplaces can find themselves impacted by business continuity concerns. Disruptions to critical business processes and key personnel absences (through illness or resignation) have a cumulative effect on productivity. Take airports as a current example. There are simply not enough ground staff to process the millions of people who wish to travel again now that borders have reopened. This is leading to lost baggage, flight delays, cancellations, and a lot of generally unhappy travellers. Those who are turning up to work are subjected to increased psychosocial risks including mental stress and customer aggression. 

Additionally, the advent of hybrid working models due to the COVID-19 pandemic has had positive and negative impacts on the mental health of employees. While many people enjoy the flexibility it offers, it can lead to increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and burnout. These feelings are leading to more employees joining the Great Resignation, which in turn leads to further staff shortages and productivity losses for the organisation. Additionally, business continuity plans that were centred around an office-based workforce may no longer be appropriate in a more hybrid and dispersed environment.

ISO 22301:2019 Security and resilience – Business continuity management systems – Requirements is a standard that provides a framework for organisations in the event they cannot operate under business as usual conditions. The standard specifies requirements for identifying, assessing, responding to, and recovering from disruptive events to return to business as usual as quickly as possible. While this standard does not specifically address mental health issues, it can help organisations continue to operate after an incident that may impact their employees – for example staff shortages due to a natural disaster. It places specific onus on the organisation to consider the health and safety of its workers as the first priority when responding to a disruptive event.

How can these standards help organisations?

While Australia’s OH&S legislation has been highly effective in reducing physical injury and illness in the workplace, having a mentally healthy and safe workplace is just as important as having a physically safe one.

Organisations that work to identify and manage psychosocial risks can receive many benefits including employee retention, reduced training costs, reduced sick leave, greater productivity, lower workers’ compensation claims, and an overall improved outlook for business continuity. 

A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes the mental health of its employees and empowers them to seek help for mental health concerns. The benefits of mentally healthy workplaces are substantial and are shared by organisations, their employees, governments, and the community as a whole. 

RTP is running training courses in ISO 45003 Psychological Health and Safety Risk Management Training and ISO 22301 Business Continuity this August. We have a special offer where you can attend both courses running in August 2022 for $2,065* (inc GST), to enrol or find out more, please call us on 1300 95 96 92. 

*Please note, no other discounts can be used with this offer and it applies to our August 2022 courses only. 

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