Workplace psychological health and safety is critical to ensuring employees’ wellbeing in our work environments. It involves addressing various potential psychological hazards that can impact employees’ mental health. The factors contributing to psychological hazards in the workplace can be diverse and complex. These include leadership, work design, culture, personal resilience, and the support services available to our teams. Identifying and addressing all the potential psychological hazards in a workplace can be a highly challenging and uncertain process.
The concept of workplace psychological health and safety recognises that employees’ mental health is just as important as their physical health and safety. A healthy work environment can help prevent mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, reduce absenteeism, turnover, and work-related accidents and improve productivity.
What are my obligations concerning workplace psychological health and safety?
Employers have a responsibility to create a safe workplace, and that obligation extends to creating a work environment that supports employees’ psychological health and safety – and in Australia, this obligation is enshrined in law. The Commonwealth legislation, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 defines “health” as “physical and psychological health”, and the State and Territory jurisdictions likewise have legislation and requirements governing employers concerning workplace psychological health and safety.
Several tangible steps can be taken to fulfil this obligation, including elevating leadership capability, identifying and managing hazards that could cause harm to the mental health of employees, providing support and resources for employees who are experiencing mental health issues, implementing policies and practices that promote workload management and work-life balance, involving teams on matters that affect their mental health and safety in the workplace and fostering a positive workplace culture that prioritises psychological wellbeing.
Where do I start?
Implementing a psychologically safe and healthy workplace for your teams requires a comprehensive approach addressing the factors that impact employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
All organisations are unique, so the starting point is to undertake a current state assessment of your organisation to dimension the protective factors and risks to employees’ psychological health and safety.
Here are some steps you can take to create a psychologically safe and healthy workplace:
Workplace Psychological Safety Index (WPSI)
Developed by AP Psychology and Consulting Services in collaboration with Deakin University, the WPSI is a research-informed and validated measurement instrument that assesses workplace psychological safety against 13 psychosocial workplace risk factors.
A structured process that assesses an organisation’s systemic organisational policies, procedures and processes against seven key workplace strategies and measures these against the maturity model developed by AP Psychology and Consulting Services.
Strategic Focus Groups
Structured and facilitated groups aligned with the seven workplace strategies that further unpack the WPSI and Desktop Review findings and round off the current state assessment by fully triangulating all informants.
Specific, tangible actions aligned with the 7 workplace strategies tailored to the organisation to improve psychological health and safety.
A range of customised learning programs variously designed to uplift leader capability, increase understanding of workplace mental health and psychological risk factors, engage in connected conversations, deal with challenging interactions, manage at-risk and suicidal individuals, improve communication skills, understand and cope with vicarious trauma, and motive and manage change.
A range of customised, co-branded tip sheets, videos, e-learns and coaching guides that positively affect workplace psychological health and safety.
A positively evaluated, palm-of-the-hand accessible app that applies a systemic approach to embedding and sustaining workplace psychological safety by engaging the workplace, leadership and workforce through various interactive educational resources and programs.
By taking these steps, you can create a psychologically safe and healthy workplace that supports your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.