As a business owner, you have a duty under WHS laws to manage risks to your workers’ mental health arising from their work.  It will also help you:

  • reduce staff absenteeism and lost working days
  • increase staff productivity

You’re legally required to look after your workers' mental health under a variety of laws. This includes:

  • Providing a physically and mentally safe workplace and managing any risks to the mental health of your workers arising from the work of your business (WHS laws).
  • Preventing discrimination against workers with a mental health condition (anti-discrimination laws).
  • Protecting your workers’ personal information – don't tell anyone about your workers’ mental health conditions unless they agree to it (privacy laws).
  • Not taking any unfair action against someone because of their mental health condition (fair work laws).

Beyond meeting your legal obligations, you may wish to implement initiatives to promote good mental health. These can have positive impacts on your business.

How to manage risks to mental health

Risks to mental health can be managed through the same process as you use for physical risks:

  • identify the hazards
  • assess the risks
  • control the risks
  • continually review the control measures to make sure they are working

As with physical risks, you should involve and consult your workers throughout this process. Your workers are a great source of information on the risks in their work and options to manage these.

To identify the hazards:

Stress is the physical, mental and emotional reactions you have when the demands of your job exceed your ability or resources to cope. Stress itself is not an injury but if prolonged or severe can cause psychological and physical injury.

Find out more about work-related psychological health and safety. 

Look after yourself

With the pressures of running a business you may find you’re getting stressed and susceptible to mental health challenges. Here are some ways to reduce your stress levels:

  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance, make time for family and friends and activities you enjoy.
  • Exercise regularly to help boost your energy levels and improve stamina.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthily and getting enough sleep.
  • Allow yourself to say ‘no’ so you don’t over commit yourself.
  • Plan events ahead of time, so you know what’s coming up.
  • Find ways to relax and unwind, such as meditation, listening to music or incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine.
  • Get support when you need it – talk to someone and ask for help.

Promote good mental health

Create a mentally healthy workplace

In a mentally healthy workplace, people feel supported, happy coming to work and comfortable talking about mental health. The Heads up website has a range of resources to help you to:

Promote mental health initiatives

As a business owner, you can help promote mental health in your business by:

  • increasing staff awareness of mental health conditions
  • encouraging help seeking behaviour in your staff
  • reducing the stigma associated with mental illness in your workplace
  • encouraging people to take ownership of their mental health and wellbeing

Download the Motivate, manage and reward performance guide for tools to help you encourage your staff as part of a healthy workplace.

Mental health resources

Learn more about NewAccess for Small Business Owners for free and confidential mental health support.

Check out the My Business Health portal for a range of resources to help you manage cash flow, disputes and mental health.

Check out Ahead for Business to help small business owners take action on their own mental health and wellbeing, understand mental health, manage business stress and take action.

Check out Beyond Blue's guide for advisers to support small business owners.

Watch our videos from small business coaches advice on supporting your mental health and wellbeing.

Check out the Business Wellbeing training for free online training tailored to the unique needs of small business owners.

Find a health service or general practitioner (GP).

Learn more about Telehealth.

Mental health resources during COVID-19

Check out Beyond Blue's free 24/7 service to help you deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your mental health and wellbeing.

Find resources to help support your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more about the mental health and wellbeing support for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read next

Find out how to make your workplace safer.

If you employ staff, make sure you know their pay, leave and entitlements.