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Well and Productive Cooperative Research Centre set to improve mental wellbeing for workers and deliver major productivity gains for businesses

Improving workplace psychological safety, mental health, and wellbeing would provide a multibillion-dollar boost to the Australian economy and create thousands of jobs.

The annual cost of poor mental health and wellbeing in Australian workplaces is up to $39 billion. This figure includes absenteeism and low productivity caused by mental health issues in the workplace. 

Leading industry and academic partners have combined to establish the Well and Productive Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to develop and commercialise innovative solutions to optimise workplace psychological safety, mental wellbeing, and productivity. 

Monash University, the University of Melbourne, CQUniversity Australia, Swinburne University of Technology, and the University of South Australia have partnered with over 60 industry partners in technology, industry peak bodies, regulators, insurers, unions, social impact investors, and education technology innovators – with a focus on the front-line workers, military and first responders, health care, construction, and manufacturing. 

Innovative technologies such as wearable devices, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality will be used to develop new solutions for workplace mental wellbeing – coupled with human-computer interactions. This transformative work drives a public health approach to mental health – it is equivalent to the work of the Transport Authority Commission in the late 70s resulting in a reduction in motor vehicle accidents. 

Well and Productive CEO and University of Melbourne Enterprise Professorial Fellow Jane Burns said mentally healthy workforces will deliver major economic benefits for Australia. 

“This CRC will drive significant positive economic outcomes. We will create more than 4000 jobs in diverse industries, including health technology and advanced manufacturing. Most importantly we will support the start-up sector in taking their ideas to scale,” Professor Burns said. 

“The CRC will drive and deliver advanced and evidence-based products and services to support the transformation of wellbeing in workplaces. Currently, 10,000 workplace wellbeing apps are available – the industry is confused by the proliferation of technologies, the request to sign pledges, the number of surveys and toolboxes. Our intent is not to reinvent the wheel but, with industry, to create a marketplace of evidence-based, proven tools that are user friendly and actually create a bottom-line return on investment.”

Well and Productive Research Lead, who is the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health Deputy Director Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, said the Well and Productive CRC would be focused on research that delivers real-world solutions. 

“The partnerships will ensure research outcomes are targeted to industry-specific issues. We will deliver $10 billion in economic benefit in the next decade. Globally, there’s never been a more important time to invest in improving mental health in the workplace.” 

The Well and Productive CRC has secured $43.6 million in cash from its partners and a further $81.9 million in in-kind support. A funding application has also been made to the Commonwealth Government.

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