Updated: May 20, 2020
Increasingly, we are recognizing the importance of psychological wellness in the workplace, but what does health and safety have to do with it?
Workplace stressors that affect mental and emotional wellness can impact;
Absenteeism Lost time; intermittently for an acute need to avoid workplace stressors, aka 'mental health days' or for longer term mental health related absences, when stressors have become significant enough to create symptoms that affect one's ability to function in their activities of daily life, i.e depression and anxiety.
Productivity When one is experiencing distress over circumstances in the work environment they may be mentally preoccupied and therefore not dedicating their full mental energy to their tasks.
Employee Engagement and Retention Employees are not going to be emotionally committed to a place of work that has been causing them distress. This renders them more likely to leave.
Corporate Culture Feelings of stress and discontent spread to engulf the entire organization in negative energy.
13 Factors that can impact psychological wellness in the workplace have been identified; (see https://www.guardingmindsatwork.ca/)
Clear Leadership & Expectations
Civility & Respect
Psychological Competencies & Requirements
Growth & Development
Recognition & Reward
Involvement & Influence
Protection of Physical Safety
"Why is Protection of Physical Safety important?
Employees who perceive the workplace as protective of physical safety will feel more secure and engaged at work. Research has shown that when employees have higher levels of confidence in safety protection at work, they experience lower rates of psychological distress and mental health problems. The sense of physical safety protection is enhanced by: adequate training with regard to physical safety, trust that the employer minimizes physical hazards, confidence that the employer responds quickly and effectively to safety incidents, and the opportunity to have meaningful input into workplace policies and practices. The protection of physical safety is also an important bridge between traditional Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and the new area of Psychological Health and Safety.
What happens when employees' physical safety is not protected?
Workplaces that fail to protect physical safety are likely to be more dangerous. Also, workers who do not see the workplace as protecting physical safety will feel less secure and less engaged, and this will increase their vulnerability to psychological distress and potential mental health problems."
Occupational Health and Safety has implications beyond the prevention of physical injury. The feeling of safety enhances the potential for psychological wellness. A physical injury can heal but the ramifications of feeling unsafe in the workplace may have lasting consequences.