Recently introduced legislation in almost all Australian states under workplace health and safety legislation focuses on psychological safety in the workplace. Prior to this introduction, there was a focus on the physical safety and identifying hazards that would impact operating any business safely.
Psychological safety in the workplace focuses on identifying hazards that could cause harm to an employee’s mental health. Under this legislation, an employer must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable.
Here are six common psychosocial hazards in the workplace with some ideas to monitor and control them:
1. Poor Support
Employee burnout, stress, turnover and absenteeism is a likely impact when employees do not receive appropriate support in the workplace which, in turn, impacts their wellbeing.
Many organisations are happy to consider investing in initiatives that support employee wellbeing, but often only focus on a few elements – e.g. yoga and snacks. Factors like these can certainly be important, but a lot more can be done to encourage positive wellbeing in every sense of the word: financial, physical and psychological.
When it comes to psychological wellbeing, many initiatives focus on addressing problems or simply helping the people currently experiencing mental ill health. However, positive psychology is about empowering all people to flourish and thrive by tapping into fundamental pillars of wellbeing (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment) on a daily basis.
2. Inadequate reward and recognition
Consistent, meaningful recognition is critical to keeping your workforce be healthy, engaged and motivated.
Positive feedback is one very simple form of employee recognition – a crucial element of employee engagement and happiness. Simply put, people want to feel appreciated and employee recognition does this effectively. Here are the most essential components of employee recognition:
- Demonstrating employee gratitude once a year doesn’t cut it. For employee recognition to be effective, it needs to be given consistently. This doesn’t mean you have to show gestures of appreciation daily because that could reduce the impact; however, it should be regular.
- After an employee turns in high-quality work, recognition should immediately follow. If you wait too long between the positive action and the employee recognition, it loses meaning and the employee won’t remember the reason for being rewarded in the first place.
- It’s disheartening to receive a generic “thanks” after an employee puts a lot of effort into a project. So ensure any recognition is specific to the employee’s actions and preferences.
3. Managing employees who work remotely or are isolated in their work
Employees who work alone or remotely are at greater risk of feeling stressed, unsupported or lonely. Research suggests focusing on belonging could be the best way to combat that.
Research undertaken by Culture Amp on diversity, equity and inclusion identified a single metric that was found to be consistently and universally tied to a person’s workplace commitment, motivation, pride and recommendation — a sense of belonging. Regardless of a person’s gender, ethnicity, age group or sexual orientation; the research suggests focusing on belonging is the most helpful way to build inclusion in the workplace.
Creating a culture where people feel respected, connected and included will assist in employees feeling they ‘belong’.
Belonging taps into a fundamental human desire to connect with people around us. We want to form a tribe with people who are similar to us. It’s this familiarity that gives people an innate sense of belonging.
4. Poor organisational change management
When changes are poorly planned, communicated or managed, they can be more than unpopular. Severe, prolonged, or frequent changes can become a hazard to employees.
Change is inevitable with business operations changing faster and businesses needing to identify ways to help employees adapt and be more resilient.
The heart of effective change management is regular communication. Most organisations understand the importance of consistently communicating the current situation, what the goal of the change is and how that will be achieved.
While organisations monitor their change progress and advise the status of the change, feedback is often overlooked. Employee feedback helps businesses drive a change program that is informed by the people it is affecting.
Change management is always tough so it is important to take your workforce on the journey through communication – but it should be a two-way street.
People can become disconnected or misunderstand what’s happening if they’re just being blasted with updates. That’s why employee feedback is also important – it turns that communication into a loop.
Without closing that loop, your change management program may take longer, be harder to implement, cost more money or be more complicated than was hoped for. Change programs that don’t include ongoing feedback as part of the rollout are stacking the deck against successful implementation.
5. Lack of role clarity
Workers without a clear understanding of their job or responsibilities are at risk of feeling stressed, confused, frustrated. Position descriptions are an essential starting point. However, ensuring employees have the resources to be successful in their role is a critical support mechanism.
That’s why employee development has become more essential than ever. It is the number one predictor of both employee motivation and retention. There is an abundance of research that shows employees highly value the opportunity to build skills that will help them reach their full potential.
Businesses who tap into this motivation and align employee development with business goals see big benefits. Prioritising development not only improves performance across the business; it also boosts retention.
6. Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions
Employees who experience ongoing conflict often end up feeling humiliated, harassed, bullied, intimidated, uncomfortable, upset or afraid. Employees need to understand how to handle these types of situations, who they can discuss their concern/complaint with, how they can lodge a concern/complaint and how the business will handle that concern/complaint.
In addition, there is now legislative requirements around bullying and respect@work that businesses need to comply with.
Akyra’s Key Takeaways
- The introduction of legislation in Australian states highlights a shift in workplace health and safety focus from physical safety to psychological safety. Employers are now required to identify and mitigate psychosocial risks to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of employees.
- There are six common psychosocial hazards in the workplace, including poor support, inadequate reward and recognition, managing remote or isolated workers, poor organisational change management, lack of role clarity, and conflict or poor workplace relationships. Employers need to monitor and control these hazards to create a psychologically safe workplace.
- To combat the challenges of remote work and isolation, the article highlights the importance of creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. Additionally, effective organisational change management requires regular communication and feedback loops to ensure successful implementation. Employee development and role clarity are also crucial factors for maintaining a psychologically safe and productive work environment.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.