The psychosocial factors of workplace health and safety
Engagement 5 minute read

The psychosocial factors of workplace health and safety

Rise | June 1, 2021

Workplace health and safety is more than just knowing where the emergency exits are and having a first-aid kit available. There are also psychosocial factors that play an important role in ensuring employees not only feel safe but also appreciated.

British Columbia recently announced its plan to reopen the province post-COVID-19. This includes a “start [of] a gradual return to workplaces” as of May 25. Although the return to work feels long overdue for many, it also has many employees feeling concerned about workplace health and safety. 

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’s crucial to implement a holistic workplace health and safety program that’s dedicated to improving the quality of working life for your employees—taking into account psychological and social elements rather than just physical ones.

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.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety identifies a number of psychosocial factors that influence occupational health and safety. If psychosocial factors are neglected, there’s the risk of increased workplace stress and behavioural conflict. This can ultimately lead to a dissatisfied, distressed, and disengaged workforce.

Particularly with concerns around COVID-19, it’s essential to ensure that your employees' psychosocial wellbeing is being met and that they feel safe at work. 

Organizations should take appropriate action to protect the holistic safety of their employees, which includes both their physical safety and psychological safety.

Employee physical safety programs should include implementing emergency situation protocols as well as policies that protect physical safety in the workplace.

Physical safety is, of course, reinforced by supporting employees’ psychological and mental health experiences in the workplace. An acute awareness and understanding of mental health by managers and team members can be beneficial in creating pillars of workplace support for everyone during either difficult times of emotional distress or when facing other chronic stressors such as mental health or monetary issues.

The psychological protection of employees' is assured when team members feel they can communicate openly with their team. This includes asking questions, seeking feedback, proposing new ideas, reporting issues, and requesting support without fearing any negative repercussions to their careers or themselves. By ensuring your leaders and managers can communicate with a high degree of emotional intelligence, your organization is able to provide a mentally healthy work environment.

Organizational culture refers to the common set of values, beliefs, and expectations held by your team, and thus directs the behaviours, values, and attitudes exhibited by employees.

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 everyone. 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’s 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 employees from the onboarding stage and reinforced throughout the employee journey.

Setting your workforce up for success starts from recruitment.

In addition to possessing the required technical skills and knowledge needed to do the job, your employees should also possess strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Building or maintaining your organizational culture means prioritizing transparency when hiring and evaluating soft skills in candidates.

Throughout the employee journey, it’s crucial for organizations to invest in the growth of their employees by providing encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional, and job skills. Skill acquisition—both technical and interpersonal—and career development directly enhance an employee's personal and emotional well-being.

Investing in the employee journey is an important aspect of employee engagement. Engagement refers to feeling connected to one's work and therefore motivated to do the job well, because employees can relate—and are committed to—the mission of the company. 

In addition to conducting regular employee surveys to gather feedback, there are a number of initiatives your company can use to improve engagement, including:

  • Recognition and reward: Your organization can show appreciation by prioritizing the timely delivery of feedback and acknowledgement. Ideas include hosting employee or team celebrations, giving gifts recognizing tenure milestones, and awarding team members for demonstrating organizational values.
  • Workload management: Your organization can support your people by helping to ensure that they can realistically get their work done within a specific time frame and that they have the resources they need to do so. Through your company's performance management initiative, conduct regular 1:1s to check in on employee progress and address any concerns that arise.
  • 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 responsibilities with more ease.

Leadership should lead by example to inspire their people.

Effective leadership means clearly communicating expectations. Employees should know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization's mission, and whether there are any upcoming changes. Your organization can establish regular communications in the form of weekly updates and company-wide meetings to keep your people up-to-date.

Allowing employees the opportunity to have a say in shaping their work culture will increase trust between them and your company. This is one of the many ways you can care for your employees' psychosocial needs, which is a crucial aspect of workplace health and safety. 

Give your employees, and yourself, the experience we all deserve.

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