Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

We all benefit from a healthy work environment. As team leaders and employees, we play a role in creating and maintaining a workplace that is both physically and psychologically healthy. In an effort to define and measure the factors that influence the workplace, the Mental Health Commission of Canada authorized the development of a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety. Known as The Standard, it is a voluntary set of guidelines, tools, and resources designed to promote psychological health and to prevent psychological harm due to workplace factors. The document was developed by the Canadian Standards Association and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec. It was also approved by the Standards Council of Canada.

Some aspects of Canada Post’s five-year mental health strategy were developed from The Standard, which is based on 13 psychological risk factors or workplace factors. Nearly half of all working Canadians report that work is the most stressful part of their day and life, even though it’s where adults spend most of their waking hours. In addition, employees who feel safe physically and mentally are typically more engaged at work.

The information below is designed to raise awareness and understanding about workplace factors and how they contribute to psychological safety.

Workplace Psychosocial Factors

A description of each of the 13 psychological risk factors is available for review below:

  1. Psychological support: an environment where psychological and mental health concerns are supported and responded to appropriately.
  2. Physical safety: appropriate action to protect employees’ physical safety at work.
  3. Organizational culture: the environment is characterized by trust, honesty, and fairness.
  4. Civility and respect: staff and faculty are respectful, considerate, and collegial with one another.
  5. Psychological competencies and demands: a staff member’s interpersonal/emotional competencies and job skills are appropriate for the position.
  6. Engagement: staff members enjoy and feel connected to their work and are motivated to do a good job.
  7. Growth and development: staff members receive encouragement and support in the development of interpersonal, emotional, and job skills.
  8. Recognition and reward: acknowledgement and appreciation of staff member’s efforts in a fair and timely manner.
  9. Clear leadership and expectations: effective leadership that enables individuals to know what to do, how their work contributes to the goals of the organization, and if change is approaching.
  10. Involvement and influence: individuals are included in discussions about how work is done, how decisions are made, and the impact of those decisions on the work.
  11. Psychological protection: an environment in which psychological safety is ensured.
  12. Workload management: tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time available.
  13. Balance: recognition and support for balance between the demands of work, family, and personal life.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers free training called Being a Mindful Employee: An Orientation to Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The purpose of the training is to improve your understanding of the 13 workplace psychosocial factors from the National Standard of Psychological Health and Safety. The course was developed by the Mental health Commission of Canada and takes approximately 75 minutes to complete.

Psychological and Social Support

Psychological and Social Support video

Psychological and social support for employees may lead to:

  • improved overall psychological health of employees
  • sustainable/successful return to work
  • support during times of emotional distress, crisis or upset
  • employees who feel safe to talk about mental health and are not confronted with stigma
  • employees who are supported to stay productive and maintain healthy relationships
  • greater job attachment, job commitment, job satisfaction and positive work mood
  • employees distressed at work will be more likely to seek and receive help

Lack of psychological support may lead to:

  • greater turnover rates
  • absenteeism
  • strain
  • loss of productivity in the workplace

To maintain psychological and social support:

  • take steps to eliminate stigma
  • shift workplace culture
  • provide employees with knowledge and web resources, workshops, team meetings
  • update employees about health and wellness supports (Employee and Family Assistance Program)
  • maintain regular communication with off-work employees