For EY, the conversation has moved from simple resilience training to a âmore integrated system-based approachâ said Roberto Garcia, director for health, safety and environment services at EY.
This includes looking at potential âhazardsâ, which can include processes that may stifle creativity, right through to bullying and harassment. According to the Black Dog Institute, up to 50 per cent of Australian employees have experienced workplace bullying, with the mental health consequences estimated to cost the economy $36 billion each year.
Houston said organisations have an âobligationâ not to tolerate negative behaviour and to make it safe for employees to speak out when they need to do so.
âItâs stripping it back to basics about how, as leaders, as employees, as colleagues, we behave to build a positive workplace culture,â said Debra Brodowski, national manager for psychological services at the Centre for Corporate Health.
Super fund challenges
Beyondblueâs Leopold said it was essential to think of mental health in the workplace as a green-to-red âcontinuumâ, where at the green end a person was thriving and at the red end they had a mental health condition. He said it was about keeping the âhealthy, healthyâ but also acting on the âamberâ warning signals before people go into the red.
For 118,000-member Prime Super â a comparatively small fund â working with employers to detect members in the âamberâ zone remains an ongoing challenge.
âWeâre a regional and rural superannuation fund looking primarily after farmers,â said Dana Clarkson, senior manager for insurance and member services at Prime. âFrom an employment perspective, we donât have a lot of big employers. From a mental health perspective, itâs just not talked aboutâŚin those types of industries. And thatâs a real issue for our membership.â
AIA chief group insurance officerÂ Stephanie Phillips acknowledged connecting with employers and members was a challenge for super funds, but urged funds to consider how they could create a closer relationship âmuch, much earlierâ.
âWeâve got to take some of the advice weâve got from corporate funds that still have that relationshipâŚwith their staff,â Phillips said. âWhat weâre trying to do is be more proactive with our super funds in recognising that theyâve got multiple employers that could be âmum-and-dadâ operations or rural small businesses where they donât have access to mental healthcare.â
For Tracey Allan, the insurance and resolution manager for HESTA, the $50 billion fund for healthcare workers, considering mental health a continuum was a âfascinatingâ concept. Over the last two financial years, 20 per cent
of HESTAâs income protection claims related to mental health, Allan said.
âI think employers might talk the talk, but they donât actually walk the walk. I think itâs about [having] a safe environment where youâre actually allowed to be yourself,â she said.
At the larger end of the scale, AustralianSuper, with 1.4 millionÂ insured members is adept at assisting members, in the âred zoneâ with regards to rehabilitation for its income protection claimants, but the fundâs head of insurance, Richard Land, said it would like to âget earlier access for its peopleâ.
âI think what weâre not quite so good at is in the âgreenâ area and engaging with our employers to help people stay in the green area,â Land said.
Using technology and data analytics to better understand the health of super fund members and keep them healthy when theyâre in the green zone remains a burgeoning area. AIA national rehabilitation manager Joanne Graves said it was about using the information the insurer has but also about getting more of it.
âYou might start to see an influx of claims come through for mental health for, say, one sector of the community,â Graves said. âWe tend to drill down on thatâŚand then work with those organisations to create some early intervention and change.
âWeâve done a lot on the red light of the spectrum, and weâve done a lot on the green lightâŚparticularly with corporate employers. Over the last five years, weâve really worked out, âHow do we work with an employer to notify when someoneâs not coping well?ââ
KPMGâs Murray said wearables, such as Fitbits, could be used to detect stress points across a population, or even a sector or division of a business.
âShould they be going through a transformation, or a merger, etc, you might see spikes, so you can do early intervention from that,â he said.
AIAâs Phillips said it was also key to encourage members, and employers, to view super funds as a source ofÂ information about mental health.
âItâs about how to be more positive in the process,â she said. âThere is a commercial aspect because you want to reduce premiums and increase wellbeing within the membership, but you also want to be proactive in helping employers understand this. Itâs really about how you connect with people way before they leave [work] because of a medical condition.â
BT Financial Groupâs chief medical officer for life insurance, Dr Summer Zhu, suggested that super funds could âidentify each individual member rather than just make them a kind of homogenous groupâ.
âItâs their super [fund] actually possibly playing a more long-lasting kind of lifetime friendship role than their employer,â she said.
Phillips cited employers such as Clayton Utz and EY as examples of what could be done when time and money were invested into changing processes and systems to generate better outcomes for the bottom line, staff and members.
Clayton Utzâs Houston said: âThe media have talked a little about the commercial benefits of investing in this [mental health prevention], but I think as employers all around the room, bottom line benefits aside, we really have an obligation to invest in the mental health of our people, and I think we can do so much more if we work together.
âWe know that being at work is good for peopleâs recoveryâŚas an employer, weâre keeping people engaged, theyâre performing, and we can get them back on the road to excelling.â