Believe it or not, the way staff greet each other at the start of the day may not only impact individual job performance, but workplace productivity as a whole.

Dr Nerida Joss, Insights Strategist at SuperFriend, explains:

“The link between workplace productivity, and the mental health and wellbeing of its people is well documented. Our latest ‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ research pinpoints the 38 key factors that characterise a mentally healthy workplace—common courtesy being one of them—and reveals how Australian workplaces are faring in achieving these ideals.

“Some of the indicators might surprise”, Joss says, “as may some of our findings, but the even bigger revelation will be how easily employers can promote positive mental health and wellbeing, and that in some cases, it can be achieved without significant cost.”

Strength in numbers

SuperFriend has been tracking workplace mental health and wellbeing in Australian workplaces since 2015. By surveying five times more people than previously, this latest report enables detailed industry- and state-specific analysis for the first time, as well as the traditional nationwide snapshot.

To better translate the survey findings into meaningful insights and evidence-based strategies for improvement, the new report also clusters the results for each indicator into four distinct domains: leadership, connectedness, policies and practices, and capability and culture.

Little things that count

While all four domains are important, Joss is personally excited by the potential of connectedness, which is essentially about providing an inclusive, respectful working environment that exhibits strong interpersonal and social support, trust and fairness.

“The connectedness indicators tend to be subtle, they don’t necessarily invoke notions of ‘mental health’ explicitly”, Joss suggests, “but they can have huge impact on mental health and wellbeing.”

“Common courtesy is a great example. When asked whether ‘people greet each other in the morning, smile, make eye contact and say thank you…’, only four in ten people say that definitely happens in their workplace.”

Ask if their workplace ‘feels like a community at work, with people supporting each other beyond just getting work done’, and the result is lower still—a definite yes from just two in ten.

“People spend a lot of time at work”, Joss explains, “to be a positive experience, it needs to be about more than earning an income to pay the bills while waiting for your next holiday.”

“In a thriving workplace, people feel they’re contributing to something bigger—it gives them a sense of value and identity, which contributes to their overall health and wellbeing.”

No surprise then to find the SuperFriend research reveals that being happy in your current job is linked to a more connected work environment. Indeed, workers who report being happy in their current job, rank connectedness in their workplace twice as high as those who say they don’t like their job.

Ready for action

Grouping the indicators into domains has enabled SuperFriend to supplement their research findings with easy-to-implement initiatives, and suggestions for resources that feature evidence-based guidelines to promote positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Their ideas for promoting greater connectedness, for example, include creating informal spaces for people to interact away from their desks or workstations, and generally fostering a culture of care across the organisation so that all employees feel valued.

As Joss explains, incorporating these types of initiatives—which in many cases can be realised with minimal effort, time and budget—help address the perceived shortcomings of many employers:

“Workers are steadily becoming more aware of the benefits of investing in workplace mental health and wellbeing. If employers appear reticent to do so, it may prompt questions about their capability or commitment.”

“For example, when asked what prevents employers from taking action to improve mental health and wellbeing, 49% of workers suggest employers lack understanding of the relevant issues; 42% believe employers lack the relevant skills and training; and 34% think employers simply don’t know where to start.”

Joss highlights benchmarking as a relatively fast, zero-cost way for employers to identify what needs to be done to create a workplace in which their people can thrive:

“The report details our 38 indicators and research methodology, so employers can assess connectedness in their workplace, or any of the domains for that matter. They can consider their results individually and compare them with our national benchmarks, those of their industry, or their state—then find out what can be done to improve any areas of concern.

How to obtain your copy

Uniquely focused on monitoring the progress of Australian workplaces toward an optimal state of mental health and wellbeing, ‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ is an easy-to-understand, informative and actionable work of research.

Available in hard and soft copy, it can be obtained free of charge from the SuperFriend website.

About SuperFriend

SuperFriend is a national mental health foundation focused on creating positive, healthy and safe working environments where every employee can be well and thrive. Their goal is to reduce the high rate of suicide and harmful impact of mental illness on individuals and their workplaces.

It is the only mental health organisation that partners with superannuation funds and group life insurers (all profit to member) to gain knowledge of the industry’s unique needs and respond with tailored solutions. Through these collaborative relationships, SuperFriend has the potential to embed mental health and wellbeing best practices into 750,000 workplaces and impact more than half of Australia’s workforce.