Steven Worrall, Microsoft Australia

Published Wed, Sep 16, 2020

I really appreciated how important mental health was after dealing with the final stages of my father’s cancer (he passed away three years ago). We had to manage his palliative care at home. At the same time, Mum was developing dementia, and I started a new role at Microsoft.

I wasn’t keeping up. But I felt I had to push through. I later realised that being a bit more human, a bit more vulnerable and opening up about what I was going through would have been a better way for me to go.

And that’s what I want to do at Microsoft and as Chair of Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia: make talking about mental health normal and natural.

A balancing act

At Microsoft, we believe mental health is vital. Yet we also recognise that people are unique and that they deal with challenges in different ways.

During the pandemic, we are particularly privileged to work in the tech industry because digital capability is so necessary to help our economy recover.

But that has to be balanced with the idea of personal capacity. People are schooling kids at home, others live alone, while some can’t connect with their parents overseas.

We want people at Microsoft to talk openly about the stresses and anxiety they feel. And we want people to disconnect and take a break, even though it’s easy to just keep working, particularly when your home is also your workplace.

Sharing credible practice

The Productivity Commission estimates the impact of mental health in Australia is $180 billion annually. With the pandemic that impact can only increase in the short term.

We spend so much time at work. Employers might be able to help, and in many cases, they do help.

There is more we can do on mental health, and I want the Alliance to play a role in that.

We can do that firstly by helping share what we’re each doing to support our people manage their mental health and wellbeing. None of us think we have all the answers, but we’re all doing lots of things and in many cases lots of really good things. The idea is to get together and share what’s working with each other.

Secondly, we want to be expert-guided but business-led. So, we’re engaging with experts in the mental health space to come up with new ideas as to how we can raise the bar.

Australians helping Australians

This is not proprietary. We’re a membership-based organisation, but we want to share what we’ve learned with other organisations. We want to learn. So, we would love to hear from any organisation in Australia that feels like they’re making progress. And even those who aren’t.

The Alliance is not about competitive interest in one industry or one organisation against another. This is about Australians helping Australians.

I think one of the great outcomes of the Alliance so far is that we’re opening up a little bit more frequently and maybe more easily, and just acknowledging the reality of the moment we’re all facing.

We have to build on that as we look to the future.

Steven Worrall, Managing Director, Microsoft Australia

Chair, Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia

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