Like a Boss: Identifying & managing psycho-social hazards at work

Reflect for a moment… What’s the worst team you’ve worked with and the best team you’ve worked with? Chances are, it won’t take you long to identify them and why. A mentally-unhealthy workplace can scar us for life, whilst a mentally-healthy one can remind us how it feels to be part of something safe and special.

Leaders, did you know that the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 includes reference to psychosocial hazards in the workplace? We are very good at identifying physical and ergonomic hazards, but how much emphasis do we place on monitoring mental health hazards?

Psychological health can be adversely affected by traumatic events, workplace violence, job fatigue, bullying or harassment, poor leadership, isolation and work-related mental stress. Work-related mental stress describes the adverse reaction experienced by team members when workplace demands and responsibilities are greater than the worker can comfortably manage or are beyond the workers’ capabilities (Leka et al. 2010).

Unmanaged psychosocial hazards like work-related mental stress can adversely impact the workplace. Organisations may experience decreased staff engagement, chronic absenteeism and the erosion of culture. According to the Mentally-Healthy Workplace Alliance, this is costing Australian workplaces nearly $10.9 billion dollars a year (Heads Up, 2015). However, together as a team we can all play an important role in minimising or eliminating some of our stressors. Communication is the key. 

As a team, you can work together to minimise work-related mental stressors by:

  1. Identifying areas that are likely to cause stress
  2. Assessing those risks to determine which ones needs some control measures
  3. Controlling the risks by eliminating or minimising where possible
  4. Reviewing those controls after a period of time to see if they have worked

Now, let’s look at a practical example relating to “Job Ambiguity” as a source of work-related mental stress:

  1. Our roles are unclear and it’s causing tension when we all come to work (“Role Ambiguity” is classified as a Job Demand stressor)
  2. It’s a risk because it creates conflict and erodes our culture
  3. Let’s develop some clear Position Descriptions, with specific role responsibilities, so everyone knows what they’re doing
  4. Let’s review those Position Descriptions and what has changed in three (3) months time to see if we have less conflict

Now, hiring a HR professional or taking the time to develop new systems may cost you money. However, for every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health actions, it may generate $2.30 in benefits to an organisation. These benefits are derived from a reduction in presenteeism, absenteeism, and compensation claims (Heads Up, 2015). That makes good business sense to us.

Why not talk to us about the wellbeing of your workplace. Mindpod is offering a complimentary 60-minute telephone consultation during the month of March, valued at $165. Contact us at support@mindpod.com.au to arrange your session.

References

Leka et al, 2010 'Health Impact of The Psychosocial Hazards of Work: An Overview'. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/hazardpsychosocial/en/

Heads Up, 2015 ‘Creating a Mentally-Healthy Workplace – The Business Case’. Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/creating-a-mentally-healthy-workplace/the-business-case