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Mental Health

Workplaces That Thrive*

Lucette Wesley

Reprinted from the How’s Work? Life in the Workplace issue of Visions Journal, 2022, 17 (3), pp. 13-15

Portrait of author, Lucette Wesley

As a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) workplace trainer I get real insights into what’s happening in BC workplaces. Many organizations don’t place enough emphasis on clear, respectful and civil workplace communication. The impact is felt by staff at all levels.

After two years of pandemic uncertainty, workplaces are deciding whether to bring employees back to the physical workplace or move to hybrid or permanent work-from-home models. This is when a psychologically healthy and safe workplace can really shine. Frequent, open and honest communication throughout the organization is critical.

In 2013 the Mental Health Commission of Canada created the first-in-the-world National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.1 The purpose of The Standard is to prevent psychological harm from conditions in the workplace and to promote psychological health in the workplace through support.

The Standard is a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources to help workplaces identify hazards and develop strategies to mitigate their risks. There are 13 psychosocial factors that need to be addressed for a workplace to meet this standard. These 13 Factors2 were derived from, and evolved to address 13 hazards to psychological health identified by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA) at SFU.3

Workplace interpersonal connections and communications have a very important part to play in moving workplaces to meet The Standard and be psychologically healthy and safe. A psychologically healthy and safe workplace encompasses the following 13 Factors,4 each of which is integral to all the others:  

  • psychological support: Co-workers and supervisors are supportive of employees’ psychological and mental health concerns, and respond appropriately as needed.  
  • organizational culture: The work environment is characterized by trust, honesty and fairness, with respectful, supportive communication among all staff at all levels.
  • clear leadership expectations: Effective leadership and support helps employees know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization and whether there are impending changes. Workplaces can prepare leaders for the challenge of leading and inspire employees to do their best work.
  • civility and respect: Employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients and the public. Civility and respect are based on showing esteem, care and consideration for others while acknowledging their dignity.
  • psychological competencies and requirements: A good fit exists between employees’ interpersonal and emotional competencies and the requirements of the position they hold. A good fit means that employees possess the technical skills and knowledge for their particular position, as well as the psychological skills and emotional intelligence (self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, self-motivation, empathy and social deftness) to do the job.
  • growth and development: Employees receive encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional and job skills. This can include internal and external opportunities for employees to build their repertoire of competencies related to their current jobs, as well as preparation for possible future positions.
  • recognition and reward: Appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts occurs in a fair and timely manner. This demonstrates confidence and trust in employees and can be very motivating if the recognition is specific (e.g., a written note of appreciation for a specific task or accomplishment).
  • involvement and influence: Employees are included in discussions about how their work is done and how important decisions are made.
  • workload management: Tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time available. This requires open, honest and frequent two-way communication for employees to be able to provide feedback when this is not in place.
  • engagement: Employees feel connected to their work and are motivated to do their job well, which allows organizations to thrive.  
  • balance: There is recognition of the need for balance between the demands of work, family and personal life; leaders are instrumental in modelling this.
  • psychological protection: Employees’ psychological safety is ensured when the organization prevents, reduces or eliminates harm that may result from day-to-day tasks of a job.
  • protection of physical safety: Management takes appropriate action to protect the physical safety of employees, including training, protective equipment and enforcing safety-specific guidelines and procedures.

There are many resources available to help workplaces if they wish to implement The Standard. Once senior leadership commitment is in place, it is important to benchmark where the workplace is at today. Guarding Minds at Work ([email protected])5 is a free, user-friendly tool that uses an anonymous survey to gather information on each factor. A workplace administrator can very easily set it up and distribute to all staff. Results are provided in a detailed, easy-to-read-and-interpret report. There are also suggestions for actions an organization can take for each factor.

This gives an organization a starting point, but there is much more work to do. The CMHA offers training to become a Psychological Health and Safety Champion or Certified Psychological Health and Safety Advisor several times each year.6

Implementation of The Standard can help to reduce workplace stress, prevent bullying and harassment, reduce burnout and lead to a happier, healthier workplace where staff and the organization thrive.

*Disclaimer: This article is based on the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) for the Mental Health Commission of Canada; and 13 Factors for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, adapted from the Guarding Minds at Work set of tools. For more information on the original sources, see Related Resources and Footnotes.

About the author

Lucette is a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) master trainer in workplace mental health programs. Her disability management background and lived experience are the foundations she draws on to innovate in and support psychological health and safety in workplaces. A long-time CMHA supporter, Lucette has promoted mental health initiatives in workplaces and the wider community

Footnotes:
  1. National Standard of Canada for psychological health and safety in the workplace. (2013). Developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. mentalhealthcommission.ca/national-standard
  2. 13 Factors for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Guarding Minds at Work ([email protected]). Downloadable pdf’s on each Factor available under “Conducting an Organizational Review,” at: guardingmindsatwork.ca/resources
  3. Mental health - Psychosocial Risk Factors in the Workplace. Fact sheet. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/mentalhealth_risk.html
  4. Explanatory wording on the 13 Factors adapted from: Gilbert, M., Bilsker, D., Shain, M., & Samra, J. (2012). 13 Factors for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Guarding Minds at Work ([email protected]). Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction. sfu.ca/carmha/projects/gmw2.html
  5. Guarding Minds at Work ([email protected]). guardingmindsatwork.ca
  6. Psychological Health & Safety Training. CMHA. cmha.bc.ca/programs-services/psychological-health-and-safety-phs-workshops

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