Supportive Leadership

The most important factor in improving mental health in the workplace

An article recently published by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) has revealed supportive leadership is the most powerful predictor of good workplace health and wellbeing[1].

The article quotes registered organisational Psychologist Rachel Clements who recommends supportive leadership styles to assist workers to feel they can approach management and seek help when they are experiencing symptoms of mental un-wellness.

Many leaders may avoid placing themselves in the position of counsellor to their employees, feeling they have little expertise to deal with issues of mental health. However, experts recommend that managers are the perfect people to identify workers who display signs that they may not be coping. We spend the majority of our day at work, having a simple conversation and checking in can be a useful strategy to let employees know you are there to support them and link them in with services that can provide help while they recover.

While we all have the ability to identify someone who is not themselves, the ability for managers and leaders to manage mental health issues in the workplace can vary depending on their level of comfort and experience. We commonly hear leaders say “I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what to say” or “I was afraid if I drew attention to it, it would make them feel worse.” Psychologists say however, the exact opposite is true.

The simple act of asking someone “are you OK?” is the premise behind the Australian not for profit who runs the annual R U OK? Day to raise awareness of the importance of staying connected in managing mental health and reducing suicide. Mental health experts stress that supportive leaders aren’t expected to be psychologists or counsellors, but they should have the confidence to open a supportive dialogue with their employees and have the knowledge about the best practice professional help available to help them to recover.

In recent times there has been a growing trend among companies to invest time and resources into initiatives to create a mentally healthy workplace. The SIA report shows the investment these companies are making is paying off with reduced staff turnover, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism and an overall reduction in workers’ compensation claims and expenditure.

These organisations are going beyond having supportive leadership and building a supportive culture among all members of the workforce. Just like taking steps to lower the risk of physical injury in the workplace, leaders can shift away from a reactive response to mental health issues by implementing proactive measures such as ensuring policies and procedures support workers who are not coping and make it easy for them to access help, embedding mental health into the language and practices of the workplace to keep it at the forefront and reduce stigmatisation and including these practices in the induction of each new team members especially those in leadership roles.

Many companies further improve their investment in mental health by offering formal professional assistance to workers experiencing mental health issues. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are offered by mental health professionals experienced in organisational psychology and workplace mental health. EAP professionals can provide tailored intervention specific to the psychosocial environment of the individual company and industry with the overall goal of assisting the worker to remain happy, healthy and productive at work.

R U OK? Day is an Australian initiative held on September 8th 2016. The key messages of R U OK?Day 2016 are:

  • We’re stronger together, so make time for the people who matter to you
  • Help create a more connected world by having regular, meaningful conversations
  • Trust your gut instinct and start a conversation if you think someone is not ok

For more information about R U OK? Day go to

If you are interested in finding out about an Employee Assistance Program or other workplace mental health initiatives
Click Here

For more information contact:

Artius Group
P: 1300 ARTIUS (1300 764 003)

W: | 1300 ARTIUS

[1] Safety Institute of Australia (2016) available at: