Psychosocial health and safety in the workplace is an often overlooked component in building a comprehensive workplace health and safety program. To establish a safe and healthy work environment, it is integral to implement a holistic workplace health and safety program dedicated to improving the quality of working life of your workforce, and that includes the consideration of psychological and social elements as well.

The workplace experience has a significant impact on employee mental health and wellbeing. According to research, when businesses address psychological health and safety, they incur between 15% to 33% fewer costs related to psychological health issues.

Provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, there are identifiable psychosocial factors that have an influence on occupational health and safety in the workplace. If neglected, you can encounter the risks of increased workplace stress and behavioural conflict, which can ultimately lead to a dissatisfied, distressed, and disengaged workforce.

We provide cases for why your company should protect and care for each of these factors, along with strategic ideas for policies and practices to improve the psychological and social health and safety of your organizational culture.

Providing physical and psychological support & protection

Organizations should take appropriate action to protect the holistic safety of their employees, which includes both their physical safety and psychological safety. Programs to aid the protection of physical safety may include providing training for safety and emergency situation protocols for staff members and implementing policies to protect physical safety in the workplace.

Safety and protection is reinforced through the psychological support of employees’ psychological and mental health experiences in the workplace. An acute awareness of, understanding of, and response towards mental health by managers and team members can be beneficial in being those pillars of workplace support for colleagues during difficult times of emotional distress and crisis, or other chronic stressors such as stigma, discrimination, and work stress.

The psychological protection of employees’ psychological safety is ensured when team members feel they can communicate openly and warmly with their team, including asking questions, seeking feedback, proposing new ideas, report issues, and requesting support in their work-life spheres without fearing any negative repercussions to their careers or themselves. By ensuring your leaders and managers can communicate to your people with emotional intelligence, your organization can provide a mentally healthy workplace environment to your people.

Building a culture of trust, civility & respect

Organizational culture refers to your organization’s set of values, beliefs, and expectations held in common by your team, and thus directs the behaviours, values, and attitudes exhibited by your team members.

The ideal is to establish a work environment based on civility and respect, where employees show esteem, dignity, care, and consideration in their interactions with colleagues, clients, and customers. The degree to which your organizational culture is upheld impacts the level of trust, honesty, and fairness your people will feel towards your organization. Trust is essential, as it is a predictor of organizational commitment, cooperative behaviour and loyalty, and overall employee well-being. 

Your organization is grounded on your set of values and principles, and as such, it should be clearly communicated to your people from the onset at the onboarding stage and reinforced throughout the employee journey.

Investing in job fit, development & engagement

Setting your workforce up for success starts from recruitment. Psychological competencies and requirements are present in a work environment where there is a compatible fit between employees’ interpersonal competencies and the requirements of the position. In addition to possessing the required technical skills and knowledge needed to do the job, competencies also under consideration are the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Your organization can achieve this by prioritizing transparency when hiring, such as evaluating for soft skills when hiring.

During the employee journey, it’s crucial for organizations to invest in the growth and development of their employees by providing encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional, and job skills. Skill acquisition (in both technical skills and interpersonal skills) and career development directly enhance an employee’s well-being in caring for oneself and relating to others.

Employee engagement refers to feeling connected to one’s work and motivated to do the job well, because they can relate to, and are committed to, the mission of the company. Engagement encompasses physical engagement (with positive energy and drive  exerted), emotional engagement (with a positive and passionate job outlook), and cognitive engagement (with increased focus and attention to their work).

In addition to conducting regular employee surveys and pulse checks to gather feedback, there are a number of engagement initiatives your company can partake in to improve engagement, including:

  • Recognition and reward: Your organization can show your appreciation to and value towards your employees by prioritizing the timely delivery and sharing of feedback and acknowledgement. Ideas include hosting employee or team celebrations, giving gifts of recognition for tenure milestones, and bestowing awards to team members for demonstrating organizational values.
  • Workload management: Your organization can support your people in accomplishing their tasks and responsibilities by helping to ensure that they can get the work done within the time available and the resources provided. Through your company’s performance management initiative, conduct regular touch points to check in on employee progress and listen to concerns in regards to their volume of work projects.
  • Work/life balance: Your organization can honour your people’s need for balance between the conflicting demands of their work and personal lives by providing flexible work arrangements, including flextime and work from home options, and flexible hours, to enable your people to handle their multiple roles and responsibilities with more ease and support.

Leading your people by example & involvement

Leadership has a responsibility to their people by leading by example. Responsible and effective leadership looks like having clear leadership and expectations demonstrated and communicated. Employees should feel supported by knowing what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization’s mission, and whether there are upcoming changes. Your organization can establish regular communications in the form of weekly updates and all team meetings to keep your people up-to-date on news and changes.

Allowing your people to have opportunities for involvement and influence in shaping their work culture can give your people a voice to influence how important decisions are made within your company. Your organization can establish performance management programs for ensuring your people have a forum and an opportunity to check in on their current and future growth within their role, their team, and their time at your organization.

Over to you

Providing a positive and supportive psychosocial organizational culture enhances employee wellness at work. Your team members will benefit from having greater job attachment, job commitment, job satisfaction, job involvement, job performance, and above all, a greater desire to remain with the organization, which are all necessary factors for psychosocially cared for people.

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