Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

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What is Psychological Health and Safety?

We all have a responsibility to be diligent and careful with the promotion, prevention and intervention for psychological health and safety.

Psychological Health:

Comprises our ability to think, feel and behave in a manner that enables us to perform effectively in both our professional and personal lives, and society. Psychological health problems occur on a spectrum, from mild psychological difficulties on one end to severe psychological disorders on the other. The most common psychological health problems in the workplace are anxiety and depression.

Psychological Safety:

Deals with the risk of injury to psychological well-being that an employee might experience. Psychological safety includes freedom from undue distress, harassment, aggression, or fear of speaking up.

A Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace:

A workplace that promotes workers' psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to workers' psychological health, including in negligent, reckless or intentional ways. So an organization is psychologically safe to be in if it actively prevents harm to workers' psychological health and promotes workers' psychological well-being.

 

Why You Want a Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace?

The workplace can play a significant role in either addressing or contributing to psychological health and safety challenges.

 

Today in Canada, one in five people, approximately seven million Canadians, are living with a mental health problem or illness. Mood and anxiety disorders are the most common, affecting nearly 4 million people. As of 2011, mental health problems and illnesses of working adults in Canada cost employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover. Over the next 30 years, the total cost to the economy will have added up to more than $2.5 trillion.

Workplace factors may increase the likelihood of the occurrence of a mental disorder, make an existing disorder worse, and impede effective treatment and rehabilitation. A supportive work environment can reduce the onset, severity, impact and duration of a mental health disorder.

The law is now emphasizing an employer's duty, and holding them accountable, to protect, promote and accommodate both the physical and psychological health and safety needs of employees.

What is The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace?

The Standards is a framework for continuous improvement.

The Standard is a framework based on continual improvement. It is not a program to implement with a start and end date. The Standard is intended to simply allow an organization to assess its areas of strengths and weaknesses in protecting the mental health of its employees, to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement, to implement policies/procedures/programs , to evaluate the impact of The Standard implementation, and to drive continual improvement.

Get a Copy of The Standard

Costs of a Psychologically Unsafe Workplace

Click on the tabs below for more information related to PH&S (Psychological Health and Safety)

Adoption of the Standard also involves the creation and application of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System (PHSMS) incorporating five key integrated elements:

  • Commitment
  • Leadership and Participation
  • Planning
  • Implementation, Evaluation and Corrective Action
  • Management Review

The cornerstones of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System are Prevention of Harm (the psychological safety of workers), the Promotion of Health (maintaining and promoting psychological health), Resolution of Incidents or Concerns, and Continuous Improvement.

The essentials to success of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System are Diversity, Leadership Involvement, Participation, and the need to Protect and Preserve Confidentiality and Privacy.

Evidence-based research from scientific and legal studies identifies workplace factors that are fundamental psychosocial risks.  Psychosocial factors can affect a worker’s psychological response to his or her work and conditions within the workplace, potentially causing psychological problems. The 13 Psychosocial Factors are relevant to Canadian organizations and employees, whether those organizations are large or small, in the public or private sector.

  • Psychological Support
  • Organizational Culture
  • Clear Leadership and Expectations
  • Respect and Civility
  • Psychological Competencies and Requirements
  • Growth and Development
  • Recognition and Reward
  • Involvement and Influence
  • Workload Management
  • Engagement
  • Balance
  • Psychological Protection
  • Protection of Physical Safety

Psychosocial factors include the way work is carried out and the context in which work occurs.

The factors are interrelated and therefore influence one another, positively or negatively.

With assessments, the goal is to identify and address the factors that present risks to psychological health and safety, as well as those that support psychological health and safety. Here are three tools for assessing the PH@S of Teams and Organizations from Guarding Minds at Work:

  • Initial Scan
  • Survey
  • Audit

Current organizational results can also be used to assess PH&S, including, but not limited to:

  • Employee Engagement Surveys
  • Health Risk Assessments
  • Turnover Rates
  • Absenteeism Rates
  • Worker Complaints
  • Incident Reports
  • Employee and Family Assistance Plan Reports
  • Benefit Provider Reports
  • Claims Data (WCB)

Is The Standard About Diagnosing Employees Mental Health Issues?

No! The Standard is about assessing how policies, processes and interactions in the workplace might impact the psychological health and safety of employees.

Personal well-being remains the responsibility of the individual. How the workplace impacts them is the responsibility of the organization.

If the workplace is psychologically healthy and safe, most employees who already have mental health issues can cope. If it isn't, and workplace stressors exist like struggling relationships or unmanageable workloads, the workplace can be a breaking point.

How Hone Consulting Can Help -
Your CMHA Certified Psychological Health and Safety Advisor

Prudent employers need to develop policies and programs that meet the legal standards for providing psychologically safe workplaces.

Thousands of people and their organizations have benefited from our services improving their lives and environments at work.

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The Latest and Most Relevant for Teams & Leaders (and Free Resources)!

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This content is brought to you by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace and Guarding Minds at Work. Gilbert, Bilsker, Shain & Samra, 2012. . References also include The National Standard of Psychological Health and Safety and Assembling the Pieces: An Implementation Guide to The National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.