Reprinted from "Workplace" issue of Visions Journal, 2014, 9 (3), pp. 23-24
Psychosocial factors for a healthy workplace
The following psychosocial factors, which can impact psychological health and safety in the workplace, were identified by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA). These factors are based on extensive research and review of data from national and international best practices, as well as a review of existing and emerging case law and legislation. They were developed as part of the Guarding Minds @ Work program, and adapted for inclusion in the Standard.
The workplace plays an essential part in maintaining positive mental health. But it’s not always clear how a workplace can be made psychologically healthy and safe, especially in times of economic uncertainty, organizational change or high demand.
That’s why the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (Standard), a framework to help organizations, was released in January 2013. To create a Canadian standard, a committee comprised of a balanced mix of stakeholder representatives is formed. These representatives come together to bring their combined knowledge, experience and points of view to the table. Stakeholders included employees and worker representatives, employer representatives, service providers, regulators and policy makers.
The Standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace was developed by the CSA Group (formerly the Canadian Standards Association) and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ), in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It was developed to help business owners cut through the hype of ‘feel good’ approaches and understand what factors actually impact psychological health and safety in the workplace. Many of these factors come down to the way we interact on a daily basis.
The Standard defines a psychologically healthy and safe workplace as one that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and that actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless or intentional ways.
The Standard states that improving psychological health is a voluntary, ongoing process of continual improvement rather than a minimum standard to be imposed by regulators. It is based on a psychological health and safety management system (PHSMS) that supports organizations through five main stages: commitment and leadership, planning, implementation, evaluation and corrective action, management review and continual improvement. A PHSMS is similar to other management systems and should be integrated with existing systems, policies and processes.
Although having a broad strategy and total adoption of all aspects of the Standard are ideal, employers don’t need this to get started. An employer might pick a particular area, take some action and assess the results. The key is to make a start, then assess, improve and keep building.
Part of the motivation to develop the Standard now was the fact that many tools and resources to help employers maintain a psychological healthy and safe workplace now exist, at no cost, in the public domain. Many of these credible and practical resources are described in the “Annexes” of the Standard. The message is that it is not necessary to wait for additional budget allocation or significant resources. The call to action is recognizing the value of a psychologically healthy and safe workplace for all organizations and being motivated to begin the journey of continual improvement.
About the author
Mary Ann, as principal of Mary Ann Baynton & Associates Consulting, works with employers to improve or resolve mental health issues in the workplace. She is also Program Director for the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, a public service initiative to help with prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues