Many of the current mental health initiatives for young Australian workers are “superficial” and “tick-box exercises”, with authentic, top-down practices needed to retain employees, according to a new report.

Batyr Australia’s Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace report, which features qualitative survey data from young workers in Australia, found that proper and meaningful mental health initiatives are crucial to combatting quiet quitting and the Great Resignation following the pandemic.

The report found that the overwhelming majority of young workers surveyed – 95 per cent – agreed that if their workplace prioritises mental health and wellbeing, they will be more likely to continue working for them.

Just under 70 per cent of respondents said that their company’s current approach to mental health is a contributing factor in their decision to work for them.

A key element of this is that the mental health initiative is authentic and useful.

More than 70 per cent of young workers said they can tell if a wellbeing initiative is tokenistic, with many exercises labelled “superficial”, “box-tick” lacking in compassion and not in the true interest of employees.

The type of workplace mental health initiatives labelled as “box-ticking exercises” by those surveyed included mental health-related emails with no follow-up discussion, policies that are never actioned, plans which are never implemented and ones that aren’t accompanied by addressing growing workloads.

To be useful, mental health initiatives in the workplace must be authentic, ongoing, followed through on and include participation from all levels of the company, particularly senior management.

The report revealed that just over half – 54 per cent – of the respondents’ employers had successfully implemented meaningful wellbeing initiatives in the last 18 months.

This figure needs to be significantly higher, Batyr CEO Nic Brown said.

“This report reveals that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure mental health support is embedded into workplace culture and practice,” Brown said.

“Young people are burnt out after COVID and are finding it increasingly difficult to find work. Knowing that a workplace prioritises mental health is a key incentive for young people to rejoin the workforce, and to stay engaged once landing a position.

“The report also reveals that young people are increasingly wanting their managers to demonstrate their own mental health challenges as a way to build trust, create genuine care for their staff and make health initiatives in the workplace a success.”

The report also found that workplaces have the potential to have a positive impact on the mental health of young Australians.

Just under 70 per cent of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they would feel confident having a conversation with a trusted colleague about their mental health, while more than half had already supported a colleague through mental ill-health at work.

“Through our work with young people over the last 10 years, we know there are critical environments that impact the mental health of young people. The workplace is one of them,” Brown said.

The pandemic has spurred a recalibration for a lot of young Australians with how they approach work, with a reconsideration of work-life balances.

A report late last year found that Australian workers are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by their work, but also feel like they can’t take annual leave to address this.