Inclusive and flexible workplaces provide a positive mental health impact

Published on 14 September 2023

Staff with an inclusive manager were four times more likely to say work had a positive impact on their mental health. [Source: Shutterstock]

Early insights from the Diversity Council Australia (DCA)’s 2023 Inclusion@Work Index shed light on workplace inclusion’s impact on mental health, further reinforcing the benefits of business owners providing inclusive and flexible work environments.

Key points

  • Data sourced from 3,000 respondents revealed that workers in inclusive teams are six times more likely to report work had a positive impact on their mental health
  • Staff with inclusive managers were four times more likely to feel that work had a positive influence on their mental health
  • Flexible work arrangements that allow staff to manage other commitments also resulted in a noticeable improvement in mental health and work enjoyment

Employee mental health has been one of the focal points for the aged care and healthcare sectors over the past few years with the pandemic’s impact triggering a newfound approach to caring for staff.

Some solutions have been cemented as regulations, such as the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Managing Psychosocial Risk and Other Measures) Regulations, while individual businesses have been working hard to implement new policies and initiatives to look after staff well-being and mental health

Now, DCA’s data has highlighted why employers should look to improve inclusion and flexibility at work. 57% of staff who identified as working in inclusive teams reported that work had a positive impact on their mental health, compared to just 9% in non-inclusive teams.

Management also plays a key role in how staff feel, with similar numbers reported for inclusive managers: 57% said an inclusive manager had a positive impact while only 14% said the same for a non-inclusive manager.

DCA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lisa Annese said the findings show why businesses and leaders have to understand the value of fostering a positive and inclusive work culture for all-round staff benefits.

“How we are treated at work can have a significant impact on our mental health. If you don’t feel valued and respected at work, it can have major knock-on effects on your personal life and your mental well-being,” Ms Annese said.

“The data clearly shows that organisations with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion tend to have a positive effect on employee mental health. If you treat people with dignity and respect, have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment, create some flexibility and have a supportive management environment people flourish.”

Additionally, 49% of staff who have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment reported their workplace had a negative impact on their mental health, twice as high as those who have not experienced discrimination or harassment. 

Flexibility matters

Top providers within the care sector have always viewed flexible work arrangements as a way to attract and retain staff. And now, there are more stats to back up the benefits.

According to DCA, 45% of staff with flexible work arrangements said their workplace had a positive impact on their mental health, compared to just 12% who said they did not have the right amount of flexibility to manage work and personal life commitments.

This is where initiatives such as the four-day work week or personalised rosters to suit parents, caregivers and carers are so critical. It’s something that care sector businesses have successfully done, too, so it’s certainly not new news to an industry that often caters to the needs of its workforce.

But as always, research such as this is essential for reinforcing a modern approach to fostering inclusive and flexible workplaces. It’s important to not lose sight of your staff and their needs, particularly when work has such a significant impact on their mental health.

DCA’s 2023 Inclusion@Work Index will be released in full this October.

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