Small firms advised to tackle workplace depression

Small businesses need to ensure that employees are engaged in their jobs and properly supported to prevent the onset of workplace depression, a new report has claimed.


A study by the University of Melbourne and VicHealth found that job stress-related depression is costing the Australian economy $730 million a year.


An estimated 1.54 million working Australians suffer from depression, with each of them costing businesses an average of $80,000 a year.


Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne of Melbourne University, who led the report, says that small businesses’ busy staff usually have high “job control”, lowering their risk of depression.


However, he adds: “If there is absence because of depression and you have just three people, there’s potentially a greater impact than a larger firm that can pick up the slack easier.”


“There’s an argument there that, because of this, small firms need to take steps to ensure job strain doesn’t happen in the first place.”


“There are all sorts of programs out there now, such as beyondblue, that employers can draw on. You need to look at sources of stress in your business – make sure demands aren’t unreasonable and that people have proper support. Set your young workers achievable goals with co-worker support.”


“Thankfully, things such as bullying and sexual harassment are rarer, but all businesses need to think about the support they give staff.”


LaMontagne adds that depression caused many people to leave jobs in order to start-up by themselves, but that most employees would rather improve their current working conditions than depart.


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