31 January 2020

By Dr Spo Kgalamono, Acting Executive Director of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH)

As we begin 2020, let’s use this as an opportunity to prioritise not only our physical health but also our mental health and wellbeing. Workplace challenges are sometimes the reason behind depression and mental health illnesses and employers can make a significant difference by prioritising these for a healthier workforce.

Supporting occupational health is crucial to improving productivity, reducing costs re

lated to absenteeism and turnover, workers’ compensation and medical claims. In fact, prioritising mental health is a win-win for everyone as it will improve communication, boost morale and reduce unnecessary stress.

Here are some useful tips for employers in 2020.

• Create safe work spaces with programmes and policies that promote mental health.

• Protect mental health by controlling work–related risk factors like long working hours without proper rest, rapid changes within the organisation,  tight deadlines, job insecurity and insufficient skills for the job.

• Reallocate work to reduce heavy workloads, enforce a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and discrimination, allow flexibility to deal with work-life conflict, and provide supervisory and co-worker support.

• Address mental health problems in the workplace regardless of the cause. Inform staff that support is available without victimisation and stigma.

• Establish programs for career development of employees and reward their contributions.

• Involve employees in decision-making and carry out team building activities so that all staff feel valued, irrespective of their level of education.