Are Psychosocial Hazards Sabotaging your Workplace?

Questions and actions regarding workplace wellbeing and psychosocial hazards are on the rise. But what exactly is meant by psychosocial risks, and how can you take action for a healthier workplace?

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Dana is Scarlatti’s wellbeing programme design specialist with over 25 years’ experience in the wellbeing space. Her work also spans strategy facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, extension programme design, and impact modelling.

Her farming background, and wellbeing and corporate experience, brings a comprehensive perspective and depth of knowledge to our projects. She initiated the GoodYarn licensing programme, which has seen over 20,000 people educated in mental health literacy and has served over 500 clients in the wellbeing space.

Dana loves questioning the status quo and discovering new ways to approach old dilemmas. These qualities ensure clients do not get tick box programmes but find the right initiatives and solutions for their organisation.

Dana holds a Bachelor of Psychology, with post-graduate studies in physiology. She is a certified personal trainer, fitness instructor and wellness coach. Dana also speaks at conferences and forums on multiple topics.

Psychosocial hazards? Wellbeing? What do you mean?

Psychosocial hazards are defined by WorkSafe as ‘the aspects of design and management of a workplace, that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm’. Psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace can result in stress, burnout, office politics, isolation, and impact employee wellbeing and productivity.

Psychosocial risks are hazards with a likelihood of occurring in your workplace.

For example, high sedentary demand is a psychosocial hazard that would be high risk for an office job but not a risk for a job such as farming.

Wellbeing encompasses good physical health and good mental health. Wellbeing is not simply defined by the absence of disease or illness, but a holistic depiction of one's quality of life – the ability to contribute to the world with a sense of meaning and purpose.

What about my workplace?

What is vital to note is that wellbeing is a continuum, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach; what we can do is hope to identify and mitigate psychosocial risks.

Common workplace psychosocial hazards

Job contents and demands 500x500a

Job contents and demands:

  • high mental or emotional demand
  • lack of variety

Workload and workplace x500a

Workload and work pace:

  • work overload
  • deadlines

Work schedule x500a

Work schedule:

  • Inflexible work schedules
  • unpredictable hours

Job control x500a

Job control:

  • low participation in decision making

Physical environment x500a

Physical environment:

  • inadequate or faulty equipment
  • poor environmental conditions

Organisational culture x500a

Organisational culture:

  • social isolation
  • interpersonal conflict

Why should I care about psychosocial hazards and wellbeing?

Psychosocial hazards and wellbeing are important for several reasons:

  1. Satisfaction - Improved mental and emotional states can contribute to greater life and work satisfaction. It contributes to a better workplace culture.
  2. Worker retention - When an organisation cultivates a poor work culture with psychosocial hazards, employees are likely to seek alternative employment, leading to higher turnover rates.
  3. Productivity and performance - The OECD (2018) estimated that poor mental health costs the NZ economy 4-5% GDP annually through lost labour productivity, increased healthcare expenditure and social spending.
  4. Ethics and legal considerations - Organisations can be prosecuted for failing to provide a safe and healthy work environment. However, steps such as directive letters and enforceable undertakings will be implemented first.

How can we mitigate psychosocial hazards?

Simply asking about and having an open and safe line of communication is a great start. Knowing when and where to refer people when the distress is out of your scope is another key action - a business is not responsible for workers' personal issues, but it is kind and useful to be interested on both a personal and professional level.

Some general ways to mitigate workplace psychosocial risks include:

  • Hiring compassionate and resolute leaders / managers
  • Talking to your people and responding to what they share and identify
  • Integrating psychosocial risk management into your health and safety practices
  • Creating policies and procedures around mental health and wellbeing.

Every workplace is different

Because each company is different, and is full of various personalities that are impacted uniquely by different hazards, ensuring that your efforts are not isolated initiatives with no further actions is crucial and any policies and procedures must be implementable and fluid.

Recommended resources

  1. Workwell – Working better through wellbeing - Workwell is a free initiative for wellbeing resources, providing workshops and networking opportunities. They also conduct surveys to identify gaps that can be addressed in the workplace.
  2. Protecting Mental Wellbeing at Work - A guide by Dr Hillary Bennet for CEO that helps businesses to facilitate workshops and identify their psychosocial strengths and hazards internally.
  3. Worksafe's Mentally Healthy Work - short essays on important topics - This essay explores how health and safety practice, legislation, research policy, and cultural developments are changing our understanding and practice of mental health at work in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  4. The Future of Workplace Wellbeing - are you ready? - At this Scarlatti-hosted webinar, Scarlatti's Dana Carver, and John Fitzgerald, WorkSafe’s manager of mentally healthy work, answered commonly asked questions about workplace wellbeing.

Scarlatti can help

Scarlatti's wellbeing programme design specialist, Dana Carver, has over 25 years of experience in the wellbeing space. Dana and the team can work with you to identify your workplace’s psychosocial hazards and create a programme and / or a recommendations report to help you navigate these psychosocial risks and hazards to foster a healthy work environment.

Contact Dana Carver now