It’s now well-recognised that work can be harmful to your mental health – stress, anxiety and depression loom large in public discourse. But while it’s easy to accept this is a workplace health and safety issue, it’s another thing altogether to identify specific risks and take effective action to prevent these types of problems from occurring.
In Akyra’s experience, many of our clients question how they can take steps to reduce mental health risks in their business to create a more positive, supportive and inclusive workplace for all employees.
Research undertaken by Victoria’s WHS regulator, WorkSafe Victoria, has led to the release of guidance materials on specific mental health hazards:
- What to look out for,
- what to do about them, and
- how to create a positive, supportive and inclusive workplace with systems to manage these risks and support good mental health.
COMMON WORKPLACE MENTAL HEALTH HAZARDS INCLUDE:
- high and low job demands
- low job control
- poor organisational change management
- poor support
- violent or traumatic events
- remote or isolated work
- poor workplace relationships
- low role clarity or role conflict
- poor organisational justice
- low recognition and reward, and
- poor environmental conditions.
Challenging tasks can generate a positive sense of motivation and achievement.
However, it’s important not to overload your employees with excessive, unrealistic or unreasonable demands
Too much pressure in terms of physical, mental and emotional demands and unmanageable timeframes – or too little – demand increases the risk of mental or physical injury or illness.
LOW JOB CONTROL
Where your employees believe they have little say in how their work is done and what their work objectives are – e.g. not being able to decide what work tasks are performed or when, where and how the work is carried out.
Micro-management or supervision that is too heavy can also undermine an employee’s sense of self-worth and control over the work.
POOR ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Change can be challenging for everyone. Ppoor management of change can ramp up your employee’s anxiety and job insecurity – e.g. making changes without talking to or allowing employees to have a say or make a comment; announcing changes at the last minute failing to ensure employees understand the changes that will affect them; using inappropriate communication channels to advise about changes; or not allowing enough time for employees to adjust.
In a workplace context, support is the practical and emotional assistance your employee receives from management and/or co-workers. Appropriate support helps employees deal with challenging situations, both work-related and personal. Examples of support include providing information and advice, guidance with completing tasks, coaching and mentoring, debriefing after difficult situations, listening while people vent frustrations, being caring and empathetic, help when making decisions and solving problems and sharing resources.
VIOLENT OR TRAUMATIC EVENTS
When your employees are exposed to abuse or the threat of harm (or actual harm) that causes fear and distress, it can be harmful to their mental health – e.g. robbery; physical and verbal assault from customers, clients or patients; witnessing or experiencing stressful events including death, grief, suicide, accident or injury; ongoing bullying; severe weather events and natural disasters (e.g. bushfires and floods, workplace accidents, injuries or deaths, downsizing or mass redundancies and terrorism)).
REMOTE OR ISOLATED WORK
Remote or isolated work is often when employees find it difficult to get help or assistance from co-workers or other sources because of the location; the time when the work is performed; or the nature of the work itself. This type of situation can increase the chance of mental or physical injury or illness.
POOR WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS
Conflict with managers and co-workers can have a negative impact on your employee’s mental health. Other sources as can be verbal or physical abuse, bullying, harassment (including sexual harassment), discrimination, offensive emails or messages, threatening body language, exclusion from activities, overloading with too many tasks or allocating very minimal tasks, and deliberately withholding information. All such conduct increases the risk of psychological harm.
UNCLEAR ROLE CLARITY OR ROLE CONFLICT
A lack of clarity in your employee’s performance objectives, key accountabilities, co-worker’s expectations of them and/or the overall scope or responsibilities of their job can all increase the risk of harm to mental health.
POOR ORGANISATIONAL JUSTICE
Employees have perceptions of fairness at work including procedural fairness (e.g. how consistently (or otherwise) policies and procedures are implemented) and relational fairness (i.e. degree of dignity and respect given to employees). Bias, favouritism and inequitable treatment of employees undermine standards of organisational justice.
LOW RECOGNITION AND REWARD
A failure to acknowledge employee efforts and achievements with appropriate encouragement, expressions of gratitude, compliments, or other gestures of appreciation is highly likely to undermine their morale and mental wellbeing.
POOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
Dangerous or stressful working environments (e.g. poor air quality, high noise levels, extreme temperatures and unsafe practices) threaten workers’ mental health.
Akyra’s key takeaways
As an employer, you have a duty under WHS laws to identify and assess these types of risks in your workplace and take appropriate steps to rectify or alleviate any problems they may spot.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to managing your workforce. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
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.