“A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one that actively works to prevent harm to employees’ psychological health and promotes mental well-being. A healthy workplace is not simply attained by individuals practicing a healthy lifestyle and self-care, but also by managers and co-workers supporting one another and fostering creation of a positive and inclusive work environment.”
Submitted by: Nick Smith, Project Coordinator, Health Promotion, Workplace Health published on: 10/2/2014
Current discussion about workplace health is centering around promoting psychologically healthy workplaces. This national movement is really at the beginning of implementing strategies to improve workplaces much like the movement for physically safe workplaces was years ago. The out-of-control costs of worker’s compensation claims, long-term disability insurance and absenteeism are the catalyst for focusing on this issue.The conversation is shifting, and rightly so, to organizational solutions. Bill 14 enacted in 2011 on mental stress has changed how WorkSafeBC is approaching the issue and one that requires employers to demonstrate that they are implementing prevention strategies in this area.
My 2013 Graduate project and upcoming book In Harm’s Way: Professional Helpers at Risk focuses on the physical and psychological health of professional helpers from an organizational perspective. The project included a comprehensive literature review of research that examined the occupational health and safety of counselors and therapists and other health care professionals. It is apparent from the research that there is abundant information focusing on the individual responsibility for health and safety and much less from an organizational focus.
The research examined the organizational components, including supervision, that contribute to unsafe working conditions, and provides approaches used in mitigating harm. The project also explores organizational culture and the organization’s responsibility for employee health from a critical perspective. The following is a summary of the projects’ findings:
1. Healthy organizational culture is a shared responsibility and it is integral in promoting occupational health and safety for health care workers. Organizations have the legislated responsibility to prevent their employees from falling in”harm’s way”.
2. The psychological and physical safety of health care workers is as much a socio/political/economic issue as it is an organizational and individual one.
3.The duty to perform cannot be met unless the duty of self-care is accomplished.
4. Getting healthy is not sustainable when a person has to work within an unhealthy, dysfunctional, or traumatized organization.
The answer is for organizations to take more responsibility and leadership in this area rather than placing the responsibility for change solely on individuals. The solutions and strategies that are needed to improve psychological health include management training in this area, increased awareness of supervisors and supervises of warning signs of mental stress and its consequences. Some of the areas that need to be examined are workload implications, and Demand/Control aspects of job duties.
You may find in reading this article that exploring the issue further in counselling would be helpful. Please contact Dr. Denise at 604-562-9130 for a free telephone interview.