SUBMISSION OF THE STAGE 1 CRC BID
ENGAGING WITH OUR KEY STAKEHOLDERS, LISTENING TO THEIR KEY UNMET NEEDS, DESIGNING EFFECTIVE RESEARCH PROGRAMS

Stage 1 submission

The Well and Productive CRC Stage 1 application was submitted in March 2023. Thanks to our partners, we proposed an innovative and compelling application with total project resourcing of $174 million. This comprises Partner and Third Party cash contribution of $53,655,000, in-kind contributions of $67,720,395 and a $53M Commonwealth funding request for this seven-year CRC.

The industry problem

The financial and wellbeing costs of work-related mental health conditions are escalating rapidly and causing unsustainable impacts on productivity, competitiveness, and worker health and safety. Work can be a positive influence on mental health, providing purpose and belonging, positive social relationships and financial security. But in some circumstances, work can be a source of psychological stress and injury. Workplaces in Australia have a regulatory obligation to identify, assess and mitigate risks to health and safety – to prevent work-related psychological harm. Twenty years of stigma reduction and awareness raising programs have not moved the dial, and small businesses, which make up more than 95% of employers, are disproportionately impacted and under-resourced to address these challenges.

Australian businesses need: (1) ready access to the next generation of fit-for-purpose, ethical, trusted solutions for their specific workplace mental health challenges; and (2) essential, system-wide scaffolding in the form of frameworks, best practice models and contemporary policy as part of the workplace health and safety system. For the technology sector, despite enormous capability to contribute innovative, cutting-edge solutions to create mentally healthy work and workplaces, there is very limited opportunity to engage with end users for co-design and deployment at scale.

Our scope, programs, and methods

Aligning with the World Health Organisation and International Labour Organisation Policy Brief on Mental Health at Work, the Well and Productive CRC will provide coordinated, comprehensive and contemporary solutions that allow workplaces to deliver social impact as part of an Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) framework. The Well and Productive CRC will not be the answer for all mental health conditions. Rather, the CRC will create an ecosystem to support innovative solutions delivered via the workplace to prevent injury and support mental health and productivity.

CRC partners represent all key stakeholder groups – (i) end-users: employers, and peak bodies; (ii) health and safety ecosystem: regulators and insurers; (iii) tech and service providers; (iv) impact investors and commercialisation support; and (v) research organisations and have co-designed four research programs (RPs):

RP1 – Leadership and systems will build capability in innovative and foundational leadership, and develop tools and skills to identify and manage the risks. We will co-design models that support access and participation of workers.

RP2 – Work and workplace design will address the urgent need for innovation in workplace design, working conditions and systems, responding in particular to changes arising from the covid-19 pandemic.

RP3 – Worker mental health and wellbeing will deliver solutions that equip individuals with tools to optimise health behaviours, physical and psychological wellbeing and productivity in an ever-changing work environment.

RP4 – Digital ethics and responsible data governance will build capability for effective and equitable data governance frameworks for the use of potentially sensitive personal and organisational data.

Research activities will be designed, evaluated and disseminated collaboratively. Methodologies will include – participatory action research to develop solutions, training resources, guidance material and frameworks; incubator program for rapid co-design and proof-of-concept testing of emerging solutions; evaluation of solutions at sector, workplace and worker level informed by experimental behavioural economics and implementation science behaviour change; health economics assessments to ensure solutions are cost effective positive return; and policy development via rapid evidence and practice review.

What success looks like

This CRC will enhance the wellbeing of Australian workers. Success will be significant workplace productivity gains, savings in industry and health sectors, commercialisation of technologies, services and education and training for mentally healthy work and workplaces. These will create 4,000 high-skilled jobs and produce $1.5B in risk adjusted benefits. The CRC will leave a legacy by establishing a sustainable ecosystem that supports industry-led research, commercial outputs all focussed on safe productivity gains.

LISTENING TO OUR PARTNERS

Our commitment is to solve major challenges in workplace mental wellbeing.

In developing this CRC, we met with our key industry stakeholders, listening to their unmet needs at every step, in order to design a proposal that is genuinely industry-led and needs-driven.

This industry-led, co-design process told us that

Mental health solutions that are evidence-based on proactively preventing problems is key to improving wellbeing in the workplace. Approaches to wellbeing should go a step further and focus not just on mental health prevention, but also making people healthier and stronger while at work.

Identifying and explaining the “why” around addressing mental health in the workplace (as it relates to the individual worker and the employer) will encourage all levels of an organisation to by-in to the solution. Having measurable outcomes that are defined by the organisation and visible to both employers (e.g., productivity, costs etc.) and employees (e.g., better sleep etc.) will help ensure ongoing support for mental health solutions in the workplace that achieve sustainable improvements.

Leaders play a pivotal role in establishing a healthy work environment. Mental health solutions and tools directed at leaders in the workplace can drive positive change in mental health throughout the workforce.

Improved mental health education, knowledge, skills, and awareness is needed throughout organisations at all levels (e.g., senior managers to junior employees) to drive positive mental health outcomes. This is critical in building mental health capacity in the workplace, which will lead to positive and sustainable changes.

There is a need for solutions that are tailored to different sectors/industries and roles, but also scalable, and flexible enough to address culturally and linguistically diverse workforces.

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Important to consider mental health solutions which consider individual responses to work stressors and provide personalised recommendations/interventions. This approach may enhance employee engagement.

Trust between employees and organisations is an important factor that can influence uptake of mental health solutions in the workplace (e.g., data privacy related to digital/tech interventions).
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Improved monitoring and measurement of mental health and wellbeing issues in the workplace is needed, especially considering the recent impact of the COVID-19 on mental health in the workplace. Measurement must focus on what is causing the problem (e.g., work stressors, poor lighting etc.), as well as identifying individuals/groups that are at high risk so preventative approaches can be targeted and implemented effectively. A better understanding of the mental health risks in the workplace will also help in identifying and/or designing solutions that best fit the problem.

Confusion around who is accountable/responsible for mental health in the workplace can be a barrier to effectively implementing mental health solutions throughout the workforce.

Need to approach mental health in the workplace in a similar way to how many employers address the physical work environment (e.g., physical hazards) and OHS risks.

These key findings from the industry consultation session were used by the CRC’s research leads to develop the research programs and project concepts – responding directly to identified industry needs. This has ensured that our research programs are focussed, targeted and driven from industry and respond to the demand for workplace mental wellbeing solutions.

WE ARE COMMITTED TO COLLABORATION – AND WE PLEDGE TO WORK ALONGSIDE OUR PARTNERS TO DEVELOP TAILORED RESEARCH OUTPUTS THAT WILL SERVE A MARKET NEED.