A few things to remember…..

>Well I sit here at my desk and ponder if it is time for an office refit and a chance to really look at the way that we do our day to day work. Our office space is – well traditional but our workers are evolving in the way they do their office based work.

So much of what we do now is cloud based and we can do that work anywhere. This has got me thinking……………….

Most of us have the conventional one-worker-one-desk arrangement but we are all starting the see the benefits of collaborative or flexible work spaces. This concept is not new; some of the design firms, Google and Apple have been working like this for years. Some have clever features such as pods for quiet concentration, tables that float away after hours to make room for events, a ball pit etc etc. Of course, these examples are at the extreme end of collaborative work spaces and are too far-fetched for many of us to implement into our workplaces. However, we can certainly adopt some of these principles.

These changes are being driven by innovation in technology. Even as recently as five years ago, we didn’t think we would have available to us fully cloud based payroll system. These systems now give us the capacity to do our work when we aren’t even in our offices to review invoices, check reports. We can do it this work from our phone. Using our Surface, we can pull up reports at meetings! Amazing…….
Sadly though, even with all of these systems available, we still visit both collaborative work spaces and conventional offices spaces and see the same things – everyone sitting, or standing hunched over their laptop or keyboard! What we are starting to see is a growth or employers who have abandoned ergonomics in the pursuit of innovative work spaces.
What we need to see in the design of work spaces is a careful review of the tasks being carried out and then we need to teach staff how to use the new space and how to use their digital devices within it. An example would be for the employee who spends a lot of each day undertaking a lot of heavy mouse work; they need spaces that are set up so that they can do the work as safely as possible. In this example, desktop workstations would be the safest whether it is a sit to stand option or a conventional desk with a good quality ergonomic chair. When they are performing other tasks, they can move to a less ergonomic set up, say working on a conventional table of chair or at a work bench.

Ideally, new work spaces should provide a mix of seated workstations; sit to stand opportunities, benches, meeting areas and breakout areas. Some of our clients have even gone so far as to provide spaces for phone use.

At SRC Solutions, we talk to our clients about the basics about good desktop workstation set up and show them how to apply it – whatever desk, table, countertop, etc. they find themselves working at – with whatever digital device they happen to be using. It is important that the worker has the knowledge to set up the space they are using as safely as possible and continue to do so every time they change location.

We remind them that it is not necessary to buy every piece of equipment for every person as all of it can be shared as the user moves around occupying different spaces throughout the day. It is important that equipment be made available and the workers need to be trained in how to use all of it, including how to readjust shared workstations, chairs and other equipment so that it meets their own individual needs.

It is also time to remind the reader that chairs do need to comply with Australian Standards including an adjustable backrest and seat base (preferably adjusting independently of one another), have a stable base with five legs with rotating castors and be height adjustable.

Hopefully, our updated work spaces will encourage us to move more during that day as moving rather than just sitting/standing because moving is the key to safer and healthier work places and better work practices.

Mental Health in the workplace

August 27th, 2015

The importance of creating a workplace that is both physically and mentally healthy cannot be underestimated. A recent report on workplace mental health written by PricewaterhouseCoopers 1
estimated that mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $11 billion per year, which includes absenteeism, presenteeism and workers compensation claims.

These numbers are frightening, yet findings in the same report showed that by successfully implementing effective actions aimed at creating a mentally healthy workplace, organisations can, on average, expect a positive return on investment with $2.30 in benefits to be gained by the organisation for every dollar spent.

There are a range of workplace strategies which have proven to be effective in improving mental health within organisations. These include:
Worksite physical activity programs where workers engage in a physical exercise program once or twice a week. Worksite physical activity programs have been shown to elevate psychological scores as well as reducing the risk of absenteeism and depression.
Coaching and mentoring programs designed to empower workers. These have been shown to reduce levels of depression.
Mental health first aid (MHFA) courses which teaches adults (18 years and over) how to provide initial support to adults who are developing a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis. This action can provide greater confidence in providing help to others, increased likelihood of advising people to seek professional help and improved coordination with mental health professionals.
Resilience training initiatives require a significant investment of time and emotion, however these types of programs can result in decreased depressive symptoms and reduced intentions to retire early.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based return-to-work programs are useful when workers are returning to work after experiencing mental health problems.
Well-being checks or health screening can be used as a form of workplace action to address attitudes that may lead to mental health problems. Programs have shown to decrease both absenteeism and presenteeism resulting from mental health problems.

The MHFA course has traditionally been offered as a 12 hour face-to-face training course. Mental Health First Aid Australia has now designed the Blended Mental Health First Aid Course for the White-Collar Workplace for workplaces that require increased flexibility in the delivery of training for their staff members. The course is a combination of online (eLearning) and 3.5-hours of follow-on face-to-face training and teaches managers, supervisors and individuals how to assist a co-worker who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. However, course participants will learn mental health first aid skills that can be applied to help any adult. Course content is tailored to the white-collar workplace setting using case-studies, videos and resources tailored to their learning needs.

Course participants first complete the interactive self-paced eLearning component that presents an overview of mental health problems and mental health crises. The follow-on face-to-face training allows participants the opportunity to revise and consolidate skills in a group environment, and to address mental health problems in the workplace in more depth.

For more information: Mental Health First Aid Australia
SRC Solutions has instructors available to deliver both the 12 hour face to face training as well as the 3.5 session as part of the Blended course.

1 Creating a mentally healthy workplace – Return on investment analysis. PWC and Beyond Blue March 2014

Mental and physical health issues caused by stress are on the rise. Organisations are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their workers both physically and mentally whilst they are at work. It is estimated that mental health is costing Australian employees $10.9 Billion dollars a year in absenteeism, lower productivity, rehabilitation and compensation.

Figures provided by ‘Sane Australia’ show that mental health issues will either affect us personally or indirectly at some stage during our lives.

  • Nearly half (45%) of the population will experience a mental disorder at some stage in their lives
  • Almost one in five Australians (20%) will experience a mental illness in a 12-month period
  • During a one-year period, anxiety disorders will affect 14% of the population and depression will affect 6%
  • By taking preventative measures, and providing access to services such as employment assistance programs and health awareness activities employers have seen an upswing in productivity and the feeling of security and well-being can be achieved – increasing the profitability of the organisation. It has been estimated that for every $1 spent on Mental Health prevention by an organisation, profitability will be increased by at least $2.30.

    Work-related stress is caused when workers are presented with work demands and pressures that do not match their knowledge and abilities can challenge their ability to cope. Stress is often made worse when workers feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues and where they have little or no control over their work.

    It is recommended that organisations adopt a systematic and structured approach to work health and safety (WHS) risk management. Mental Health injuries should be treated or assessed in a similar way to a physical injury in that provisions for assessment should be included within an organisation’s WHS plan, risk assessments and job decriptions, with an outlook for both physical and mental health risks using the following:
    1. Identify any sources of potential harm to an employee’s health and wellbeing
    2. Systematically assess the chance of risk that employees may face
    3. Develop and implement a plan to:

  • address any workplace factors that have been found to be risks of psychological injury
  • take steps to minimise the impact of stress on employees
  • provide safe and effective return to work for individuals if an injury has occurred
  • 2Organisations can play a part in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health problems in the workplace and how they impact on the lives of people affected, including their work performance.

    Communication and training can play an important role to decrease the stigma towards a colleague with depression or a related disorder, allowing others to confidently reach out to assist or manage the worker. This can also assist managers with providing a greater understanding of their responsibilities to staff and the organisation as they relate to these issues.

    Through the use of sound workplace polices, well informed managers, training and support systems many mental health issues can be avoided or minimised within an organisation leading to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.