Safe workplaces are good for mental health
Rewarding work and safe workplaces are good for people’s mental health and wellbeing. They provide structure and purpose, a sense of identity, opportunities to develop skills, and increased feelings of self-worth.
As an employer one of your main tasks is to manage workers on a day to day basis and legally you are required to provide a safe workplace that eliminates or mitigates risks to workers’ psychological health, and work-related bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, violence, and victimisation. The impact of workplace stress issues are also becoming more broadly recognised as contributors to poor mental health in workers. For mental health week we encourage you to take time to consider the workplace contributors to poor mental health and support workers to take time for their mental health.
When Australian researchers reviewed data on more than 1,000 workers recently, they discovered that working for a company that lacks psychological safety triples a person’s chances of suffering from major depression.
Psychosocial hazards present in the aspects of workplace practices and situations can cause a stress response which can, in turn, lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of workplace practices that can result in psychosocial hazards include high or low workloads or job demands, role conflict or lack of role clarity, low job control, poor processes for making decisions, poor organisational change consultation, poor support from management and team members, and unresolved workplace conflict, bullying, or sexual harassment. Examples of situations that can result in psychosocial hazards include exposure to traumatic events or workplace violence.
One factor that can increase the risks posed by psychosocial hazards in the workplace is a poor reporting culture where workers are either discouraged from reporting issues, or when they do, the organisation either doesn’t respond or doesn’t respond effectively. Promoting a workplace that recognises that work can contribute to poor mental health and is willing to engage with workers to identify and respond to issues in a timely manner is critical. Achieving this can not only benefit the organisation with increased productivity and morale but also meet legal requirements and community expectations.
What can you do?
- Actively seek out signs of issues and become aware of where the risks lie in your business
- Empower your team by providing training and information on acceptable behaviours or safety processes in place to manage psychosocial risks.
- Quickly, fairly, and confidentially respond to workplace grievances.
- Ensure that support mechanisms are in place to support victims and prevent retaliation for reporting or helping people to report issues.
- Consider ways in which work can be organised to allow workers to take time for their mental health.
Statistics show that bullying and harassment complaints have increased in Australian workplaces.
To ensure you are aware of what is happening with the mental safety of your workers, so you can deal with psychological hazards if they occur, you should reflect on:
- Your workplace culture – is it inclusive and if not, how can we improve it?
- Are there previous reports if so, what was the cause?
- Are there any repetitive factors in these cases?
- If there are reports, where are the issues occurring – management or workers?
- Who are the workers being affected?
Employers need to create a workplace culture that rejects bullying. The best way to do this is to define and communicate your company’s approach to identifying, reporting and responding to workplace bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, victimisation, violence, or stress.
Talk to us
If you need help writing workplace mental health policies, or an entire employee handbook, talk to us.
We can ensure you have the appropriate systems and procedures in place and help you to manage the workplace mental health risks for both employers and employees.