STRESSED OUT: Study reveals suffering inside Warwick offices
STRESS and suffering inside Southern Downs offices could be costing employers thousands but common issues are not being addressed even when warning signs are present, local experts have warned.
A survey of workers across all sectors of the region has revealed that stress, multiple roles and responsibilities, unrealistic workloads and communication difficulties are the top four issues affecting productivity and wellness around the Southern Downs.
Mental health social worker Kathryn Walton said the problems needed to be addressed.
"Businesses and organisations really need to look at these issues in terms of productivity and what it is costing them as a result,” Ms Walton said.
"I guess it is a common thread that we all experience stress. When someone asks 'how are you' so many of us say 'busy' or 'exhausted' but we don't really do anything about it until we are really burnt out.”
For individuals this can result in fatigue, relationship breakdowns, poor self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness, Ms Walton warned.
But it takes a huge toll on workplace productivity too.
"Poor mental health is the leading cause of absenteeism in workplaces in the developing world,” Ms Walton said.
"The losses in Australia as a result of mental health are estimated to be $12 billion dollars per year.”
The shocking statistics led Ms Walton to team up with occupational therapist Bel du Bois in a bid to understand the issue at a local level.
"Our idea here was to really hone in on what the local issues are,” Ms Walton said.
Over a few months, the two health practitioners gathered data from employees which they have used to design a series of targeted workshops.
Ms du Bois said workers desperately needed to understand their personal stress triggers.
She said small actions like de-cluttering your desk, adjusting your seat position or getting an indoor plant could help improving mental health in the workplace.
"We spend between a third and half of our walking hours at work, which is why it is such an important space” Ms du Bois said.
But improving economic outcomes would require Southern Downs organisations to take a leap of faith.
While the survey was conducted anonymously, cracking down on the issue could require local businesses and employees to face up to some potentially-confronting issues.
"One of the barriers for us to get into organisations is that there can be a sense of shame or secretiveness around this stuff,” Ms Walton said.
The pair wanted to assure people the benefits were well worth it.
"Everyone is experiencing these issues in one way or another,” Ms Du Bois said.
"We want people to walk away from our workshops having a lot of hope and faith that they will feel better if they put these strategies into place.”
The first workshop is a general skills and experience-based session that is open to managers, workers and anyone interested in improving workplace mental health. It will be held on March 13 and costs $150 if you get in quick and score an early-bird ticket. For more information visit www.kathrynwalton.com.au or phone 0455 992 419.