This page provides information on what a mentally healthy work culture looks like and ways to create a healthy work environment.
What is workplace culture?
Workplace culture is sometimes described as “the way we do things around here”. How the people in a workplace understand why they do what they do and what they think is important. It includes the shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of a business. Workplace culture also describes the overall atmosphere, behaviours, and expectations of a workplace.
How workers engage with one another, how they approach their work, and how they perceive their workplace is all influenced by workplace culture.
What does a mentally healthy workplace culture look like?
Positive or negative work culture is driven by many things including leadership style, communication practices, and employee policies. Work culture is also influenced by a workplace’s physical environment, working conditions, and how workers behave and communicate.
Healthy work cultures support collaboration, open communication, respect, creativity, innovation, learning, diversity, inclusion, employee wellbeing, opportunities for growth and development, and recognition of work and achievements.
Potentially harmful work cultures are characterised by, and can result in, low morale, little trust, poor communication, harmful competition, and favour individualism over teamwork.
Poor work cultures may have rigid hierarchies, limited opportunities for growth, and consistently bad work-life balance. It may also impact workers’ motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction. International research also suggests a negative work culture is associated with workplace bullying.
A mentally healthy workplace culture works to do the following:
- Prevent risks and increase protective factors across the organisation.
- Prioritise and fund targeted resources and tools that meaningfully protect and promote mental health.
- Actively support workers if harm occurs so they can participate equally.
Healthy workplaces have common ingredients:
- Active leadership that prioritises and resources the mental wellbeing of employees.
- Workers are listened to, and their contributions are reflected in decisions.
- Issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently through effective feedback processes.
- Leadership regularly and openly engages with workers.
- Leadership communicates the importance of mentally healthy work from an organisational level.
Working towards a mentally healthy workplace culture
A work environment that has the following elements can support building a mentally healthy workplace culture.
Supportive and competent leaders
Leaders can prioritise mental wellbeing by effectively managing workplace stress, understanding the needs of workers, training to recognise signs of harm, and encouraging open communication, support, empathy, and conflict resolution skills.
Through supporting a positive work culture, leaders can expect improved job satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and retention rates, and reduced levels of bullying, harassment, and conflict.
Work design for mental wellbeing
Mentally healthy work requires businesses to consider how work is planned and carried out; the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of work. Prioritising health and safety, and work-life balance, is key. By designing work that is meaningful, manageable, and adequately resourced, workplaces will see reduced risks to mental wellbeing.
Fair treatment and respect
Treating workers fairly and respectfully helps to build a sense of trust and belonging in the workplace. It enhances job satisfaction, engagement, and reduces stress, anxiety, feelings of injustice, conflicts, bullying, and harassment.
Workplaces that prioritise worker wellbeing
Businesses that prioritise workers’ mental wellbeing, promote safe and open discussion and support for mental health have higher rates of job satisfaction among workers. This includes creating safe spaces for workers to raise and discuss issues they may face. When concerns are voiced, they are acknowledged and acted on.
Healthy workplaces promote inclusivity and meaningfully include workers in decision-making processes. By ensuring workers’ feel included, their voices are heard, and diversity is valued, workers can experience a greater sense of belonging and job satisfaction. Inclusive decision-making also improves fairness and reduces disparities.