Plenty of emphasis is put on workplace wellness – from exercise programs to nutritional support. But are we doing enough to ensure the mental wellbeing of our workplaces?
A psychologically healthy workplace is one that supports employee mental health, ensuring they feel secure, supported and able to fulfill their work responsibilities without feeling overly stressed or overwhelmed. Like most HR initiatives, it’s important to benchmark before taking actions.
When assessing the psychological health of your workplace, look beyond your own data for warning signs, UBC professor of rehabilitation counseling psychology Dr Izabela Schultz said. Managers, coworkers and even financial officers might have access to information that is relevant.
Increased insurance costs due to increasing disability claims, increased absenteeism, or decreased productivity could all be indicators of underlying problems.
“This is where an integrated approach rather than siloes working in isolation can be effective,” Schultz, who will be speaking at this month's Psychologically Health Workplaces Conference
in Vancouver, said. “Financial executives are not as aware of interpersonal issues, but may be aware of negative financial outcomes but don’t know where they come from.”
If you’re seeing managers spending more time managing personal conflicts or staff morale, it’s likely that there are other factors at work. Managers who have to cope with a lot of labour relations and performance issues can’t focus on improving their team’s productivity and efficiency.
“When we see incidents of bad behaviour that are affecting people and those issues not being addressed, that’s one sure sign of a psychologically unhealthy workplace. Healthy workplaces ensure there are mechanisms for people to address incidents that affect them,” Proactive ReSolutions founding director Richard Hart said.
Some indicators could also be the causes of stress-related problems in the workplace. For example, if some employees are consistently late, it’s often a good indication that they are not happy. However, if their tardiness is never addressed in the workplace then their coworkers may feel resentful about picking up the slack, which then makes them feel less connected and satisfied at work. Ensure your organization has processes in place for addressing issues, and that these policies are being applied consistently.
Hart also suggested training employees on how to address incidents that affect them. Offer scripts for bringing up concerns with coworkers, and ensure they understand the process for escalating a complaint if they cannot solve the problem on their own.
“The manager needs to realize that some factors are modifiable and some are not, so focus energy on the factors that are modifiable,” Schultz told HRM. “Communicating and listening is a prescription for improved staff engagement improved climate and an ability to influence the climate in a positive way.”
By increasing support for employees and managers, HR can give staff the resources they need to be happier and healthier at work.
“I would encourage management to take courses on conflict resolution,” Schultz added. “We cannot ban stress, we cannot do much about removing it all together, but we can do something about how we cope with stress. The more skilled the manager is, the more successful the staff will be at the floor level.”