The psychological wellbeing of people at work is good for everyone and improves individual and organisational resilience and success. We all have a role to play, both in looking after our own mental health and developing and maintaining a mentally healthy workplace.
A medium sized company who has a combination of permanent office based employees, contractor drivers who are on the road for the majority of the day, along with remote employees based in other states, found that they were seeing an increase in absenteeism from the drivers and the interstate based employees. There had been one employee who had been unfit to return to work due to ‘stress and anxiety’ and felt he could not work independently as a remote worker.
The company engaged JK Corporate Resourcing to undertake a review of staff engagement, company culture and introduce the concept of an EAP provider. JK Corporate Resourcing met with all the staff 1:1 and asked them to rate the company with regards to the –
1. culture // 2. leadership // 3. general feedback
This feedback was provided anonymously to the owners/manager and plans developed to address the perceived lack of care as well as the issues that mattered to the staff. The same questions were asked of the managers. With all this information a workplace wellness strategy was developed to engage the staff and address their perceived needs.
Over time, the staff were re-interviewed and the measures of engagement tracked. After the first 12 months, Wellness Buddies were elected to continue and manage this process. They set annual goals to ensure staff were engaged, reduce worker’s compensation claims and to increase the support offered to staff – especially those that are isolated. The Action Plan is reviewed by managers and the Wellness Buddies twice a year. The feedback is offered to the staff and company as a whole. JK Corporate Resourcing is proactively engaged to ensure staff are feeling supported whilst ensuring the workplace is mentally healthy.
This company is now enjoying
- a reduction in workplace issues and absenteeism, especially with the more remote workers
- an engaged team, staff more invested in the company’s future
- staff feeling supported with regular mentoring meetings and transparent Action Plans to continue to guide staff engagement.
Is your organisation looking to apply corporate wellness strategies into your team or practice?
Assisting organisations keep their staff equipped to deal with the daily challenges of working with clients and to enable them to build resilience to continue working – allows organisations to build workplace wellness.
It is important to assist organisations manage current and future psychological injury claims, whilst the main aim being to keep these workers connected to their family, social and work networks. We need to address employee vulnerability to psychological injury thereby supplying a framework for psychological injury risk management.
Whilst we have seen an increase in supports with regards to training organisations in mentally healthy workplaces, it is critical for success, that these supports are pragmatic, realistic and applicable to the individual. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work, whilst it may make everyone feel good for the duration of the training, it needs to address the root causes and issues that may potentially lead to poor mental health.
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Current research shows, the main goal needs to be to provide a systemic and practical approach to identifying and managing work related psychological health and psychological safety. Recently, only 8.8% of workplaces in NSW had an approach to mental health that is embedded in an integrated and sustained way (NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-22). It is a further goal that both physical and psychological claims can be better managed with early intervention playing a major role, ultimately leading to a healthier workforce, decreasing business disruption and associated costs.
These associated costs may include:
- unreported cases of mental health issues impacting on the individual and their workplace
- worker’s compensation claims – often lodged late with long delays from initial issue to date of claim lodgement
- collegial relationship breakdown and isolation from the team and / or workplace
- family/relationship breakdown due to poor mental health due to workplace matters
- in some instances, suicide (whether directly or indirectly linked to workplace matters)
This is supported by the statistics for workers compensation claims, sick leave, mediation and EAP’s confirming, that mental health plays a vital role. Organisations need to look holistically at these issues to obtain a good scan or ‘feel’ for the workplace.
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Based on research and findings from Safe Work Australia, Safety Institute of Australia and in line with the current NSW Government Mentally Healthy Workplaces strategy. Dr Peter Cotton also has published many articles relating to the need to conduct ‘psychological autopsies’ (published 10/06/2018 – LinkedIn) with the emphasis on the need to proactively seek clarification on what triggers these injuries and how to best address the triggers – to lead to a reduction or elimination and an overall healthier workplace.
The necessary steps to create a successful and mentally healthy workplace strategy include the following:
Ensure Management Commitment
- You need ‘buy-in’ from the executive team for any such program to be successful. This needs to be an ongoing program and it needs to become business as usual! Mental health needs ongoing attention, similar to work health and safety strategies, the same is required of mental health. There needs to be company policies and procedures that support and promote workplace wellness (both physical and psychological). Management needs to be involved and provided with the tools to be wellness role models…
- Are there dedicated staff who will focus on this? Drive the ongoing program? What are the goals and how will it all be measured? How will the Wellness Team engage the staff and how will the staff be able to provide feedback?
- Ensures the needs of the organisation will be addressed. All staff need to be involved in this process, to ensure it is appropriate across the board.
- Several goals need to be developed to allow the organisation to assess the return on investment for such a program, as well as confirm if the program is a success or if further adjustments are needed. How will you measure successes? What’s the timeline?
- The organisation needs to assess if they achieved what they set out to do? There are many facets that can be addressed, assessed and supported. What will the focus be for your team?? What are the learnings and how will it continue to be reviewed? At all times, the success will rely on how the staff engage and embrace such a program.
As a service provider, our goal needs to be to support workers to deal with the demands of their roles. By training the leaders in this program, it allows the buddy system to follow, allowing for a cultural change that ultimately leads to mentally healthy workplaces.
Contact guest blog author – Tatjana Jokic – Psychologist for more individualised consultation and workplace wellness strategies for your team.