Under workplace health and safety regulations, an employer’s main responsibility is to make sure that the workplace is safe and does not expose employees to hazards or harm, which can include work-related risks to psychological health.
SafeWork Australia recognises that mental health can be adversely affected by exposure to prolonged workplace stress-factors such as high job demand, low job demand, poor support, poor workplace relationships, low role clarity, poor organisational change management, poor organisational justice, poor environmental conditions, remote or isolated work, and violent or traumatic events.
When stress is high and prolonged, it can lead to work-related psychological harm, such as to depression and anxiety.
Work-related stress can manifest and be linked to:
frequent unplanned absences including sick leave
withdrawal and presenteeism, and
poor work and poor product quality.
In this article, we have chosen to highlight four mental health hazards in the workplace, which reflect some of the common workplace issues that we come across:
1. Poor support
Poor support means employees either don't receive, or perceive not to receive, adequate support from their leaders and colleagues. Support can be both emotional and practical. Poor support could look like:
poor and/or irregular communications, including not providing clear work goals and organisational updates,
not providing adequate information, training or induction to support their work performance,
not providing access to additional support such as an Employee Assistance Program,
not providing constructive feedback (for example, in performance reviews) so they can improve,
not providing the tools and sufficient resources to perform the job.
2. Poorly managed organisational change
This occurs when organisational change is poorly managed and communicated. Change can come in various forms such as changes in roles and responsibilities, organisational restructuring, the introduction of new technology or processes, etc. Poorly managed organisational change can be a result of:
insufficient consideration of the potential impacts on employees of the change/s,
lack of consultation before making a major decision,
not providing employees sufficient support during change,
lack of regular communication processes with employees, such as regular team meetings. (This can lead to rumours spreading because ‘official’ information isn’t reaching all employees.)
3. Poor organisational justice
Poor organisational justice is when people are not treated fairly, or there is inconsistency or bias in the workplace. It’s important to be open about how decisions are made – if employees can’t see what’s happening, they can’t know whether or not people are being treated fairly. Poor organisational justice can look like:
applying policies and procedures sometimes but not at other times,
unfairness or bias in decisions about how resources, work tasks and shifts are allocated,
not providing underperforming employees the support they need to improve,
hiring or promoting people for reasons that aren't related to performance or experience, or not using valid selection and consistent recruitment methods.
4. Poor workplace relationships
Unresolved conflict or strained relationships between co-workers or with managers lead to mental ill-health. Incivility is one of the biggest causes of problems in workplace relationships. Incivility is inappropriate behaviour such as rudeness, sarcasm and belittling or excluding people. This can be spoken or written. Problems in workplace relationships can mean:
workplace bullying, aggression, harassment including sexual harassment, discrimination, or other unreasonable behaviour,
poor relationships between employees and/or their supervisors,
conflict between employees and/or their supervisors - this can become worse if supervisors are reluctant to act on inappropriate behaviour,
employees are not given clear guidelines about how they are expected to behave,
a workplace culture that does not discourage disrespectful behaviour.
WorkPlacePLUS can support and partner with you to address mental health hazards in your workplace, which may be caused by issues such as restructuring, bullying & harassment claims, conflict within teams, poor staff engagement, misconduct, leadership issues, staff complaints, toxic workplace cultures, your response to COVID-19, and more.
Our MENTALLY HEALTHY WORKPLACES training and development program empowers leaders and supervisors to mitigate the risks of workplace stress and promote a mentally healthy workplace. Included are discussions on legislative requirements, risks, prevention, intervention and support.
For more information and tailored support, please contact us today.
Two opportunities to discover the rules and tools for ensuring a mentally healthy workplace: