Managing psychosocial stressors in the workplace

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including managing psychosocial stressors. Under the Work Health & Safety Act (2011) the word ‘health’ covers both the physical and psychological. Employers have a duty of care in providing a physical and psychosocial work environment without risks to health and safety.

Workplaces can affect mental health, either positively or negatively. Important research has shown the benefits of a healthy workplace in improving staff morale and engagement, reducing staff turnover and improving interpersonal relationships among employees, resulting in fewer conflicts and complaints.

This is achieved through the implementation of some practical interventions

  1. Increasing employee discretion over methods of work
  2. Ongoing evaluation and analysis of job demands
  3. Providing appropriate recognition of employee contributions
  4. Ensuring equity in the way information and resources flow within the organisation.
  5. Developing workplace health promotion strategies that include both physical activity incentives and mental health awareness and education.
  6. Establishing clear policy guidelines to deal with incivility and bullying
  7. Implementing peer support schemes or other ways to ensure staff are able to seek help early if needed.

Businesses that value the health of their employees, including their mental health and well-being, have specific practices and policies in place. Business leaders and managers need to be mindful of the mental health of their workers when they make decisions that are likely to have a significant impact on those they are responsible for.

The disability service provider I worked for, until the end of last year, has gone into voluntary administration. I feel for the parents who have given themselves tirelessly, over many years, to establish a day service for their children. I understand the anxiety some of the service users would feel not knowing where they will go and who will support them. I am also concerned for my former colleagues. The treatment they have received is unacceptable.  It is devastating to be told you are no longer required, especially when it happens suddenly and with little warning.  I accept that tough decisions are necessary in the business world, but it’s how we treat one another that is all important. Sensitivity, respect, recognition, and appreciation are a good starting point. Having a job is important to people. Their participation in valued work is a source of meaning and satisfaction and enhances self-esteem. The sudden and unexpected termination of employment is a major upheaval causing stress and challenging mental health.

I appreciate the challenge faced by businesses in understanding the mental wellness of their employees but it is vital they do so.  A lack of vigilance in this area can have tragic outcomes.

The World Health Organisation suggests worker suicide is a result of complex interaction between individual vulnerabilities and work-related environmental factors that trigger stress reactions and contribute to poor mental wellbeing.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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