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10 Apr 2024

Lessons From the Postman: How Employers Can Adjust For Better Mental Health

Lessons From the Postman: How Employers Can Adjust For Better Mental Health

28 March 2024

Depression and anxiety are significant health risks among Australian adults. The Australian Institute of Health reports that 12% of the population has experienced psychological distress, and one in five Australians already suffers from a mental health condition. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that over 17% of Australians suffered an anxiety-related disorder between 2022 and 2023.

This has serious implications in the workplace, especially with the introduction of new regulations that seek to protect the mental wellbeing of employees

As Simon Brown-Greaves, Chief Mental Health Officer, Australia Post (and a presenter at the upcoming Workplace Health and Safety Show) says: “We are now operating in a social context where the mental health landscape is far more complex. The endless pursuit of better returns along with many of the Post Covid workplace changes is impacting mental health in our community and employers need to adjust”.

Three key actions for enhanced management of worker wellbeing

In addressing mental health, Simon outlines three key steps that organisations should take:

  1. Develop a culture and a strategy that support good mental health 

    Make sure the strategy is fit for purpose, and facilitates partnership at all levels of leadership. “Company-wide, mental health needs to be embedded in routine practices across the business and should be the responsibility of company leadership and team members alike,” notes Simon.

    Companies of any size can implement an effective strategy, almost for free – there are sufficient resources in the community which can be accessed to pull together a program that is specific and relevant to a work environment and scale. “It's about looking at things like effective job design, effective collaboration, leadership and workload management,” adds Simon.

    For Australia Post, with a 60, 000-strong workforce, it was important to develop a strategy that would be relevant to its diverse team (which includes first language speakers, varied cultural and ethnic groups, as well as differently abled team members). Instrumental to the company’s vision for mental wellbeing was the appointment of a Mental Health Officer in the extended executive team. Simon is the inaugural appointee – responsible for fine tuning mental health strategy and managing its execution.

    In creating a caring and supportive company culture, Australia Post has fostered a sense of connection and job pride, with positive outcomes. “The longevity of employee tenure is extraordinary – I met a postie in country Victoria, who has been on the same round for 50 years and he loves the job. He is an intrinsic part of the make-up of that community and this gives him an enormous sense of purpose and satisfaction,” says Simon.
  2. Be clear on who’s responsible for mental health

    Organisations should differentiate between what responsibility they hold in terms of supporting worker mental health, and what is the responsibility of team members themselves. “There is a subtle, but important difference between what we own, and what we support for,” says Simon.

    The focus should be on identifying how to reduce the negative impact of specific actions or activities within the workplace that are the responsibility of the employer. “For example, we need to keep our posties safe from dogs Not doing this would mean additional anxiety and risk for the employee”.

    He cautions against wellbeing initiatives that inadvertently place an added burden on the employer. “A lot of time and money is spent on activities that are not the responsibility of an organisation, such as subsidised gym memberships or yoga classes,” he says. “These don’t give the organisation the best value as the activities don’t appeal to the broad population, and put the company in charge of organising the recreational activities of employees. We’re not in the pursuit of happiness – it’s about developing strategies that are sustainable and scalable,” says Simon.
  3. Empower teams with effective mental health leadership and support resources

    Leadership development shouldn’t be solely focused on managing the mental health of staff, but rather on effective communication skills, to facilitate regular wellbeing checks so leaders can proactively identify the signals of possible mental health issues and know who these issues should be referred to. “Supervisors need to be mindful of the mental health of the team but should know what the mechanisms are to support them in helping their team,” adds Simon.

    Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are one means to provide mental health support to personnel when needed. “The Australia Post EAP has eight streams of support - from financial advisory support, family violence, special support for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders (more than 1,000 of our employees identify as ATSI), and we also have a manager coaching/assistance program where managers can get support in working with their staff,” explains Simon.

Helping you get started

Simon will share his insights at the upcoming Workplace Health and Safety Show, which will take place in Melbourne from 23 to 24 May 2024.

His Summit Stage seminar, entitled Workplace Wellbeing: A Strategic Imperative for Businesses Success, will be around designing and delivering a mental health strategy in the workplace. “This is a recipe of the key considerations to take into account if you are serious about putting together a strategy,” concludes Simon.

The Workplace Health & Safety Melbourne Show runs alongside the AIHS National Health and Safety Conference 2024, at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from 23 – 24 May 2024. Register here for free.


About the author 

Simon Brown-Greaves - Chief Mental Health Officer, Australia Post

Simon Brown-Greaves is an experienced senior executive manager and organisational psychologist with more than 20 years of involvement in helping businesses and public sector organisations align people and performance. He has extensive experience in managing multi-disciplinary teams and delivering human capital projects and services in the Australian market.

Simon has also worked closely with the executive teams of many of Australia’s leading public and private organisations and continues to partner with them to help solve complex cultural issues and develop effective leadership.




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