Trends in Psychologically Safe Workplaces
How psychologically safe
is your workplace?
That question is one Canadian employers need to be sure they can answer, according to a recent article in Benefits Canada. “The days of a demanding boss who uses militant-style tactics around the office are over—at least in the eyes of the law,” the article states.
The issue of psychological safety in the workplace is gaining higher profile following two recent reports commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada:
- Trends in Mental Health in the Workplace: Psychologically Healthy Workplaces, by Ian Arnold (2010)
- Mental Injury, Psychological Safety and the Law, by Martin Shain (2009).
The reports are part of a national effort by the commission, Health Canada and other partners to develop guidelines for psychological safety in the workplace—similar to those for physical health and safety. Here is how the reports define a psychologically safe workplace:
One that allows no significant injury to employee mental health in negligent, reckless or intentional ways.
One in which every reasonable effort is made to protect the mental health of employees (due diligence).
Mental injury is not the same as mental illness:
Here are more facts about psychological safety in the workplace
- Examples of psychologically unsafe workplace conditions are those that permit harassment, discrimination, verbal abuse, unfairness and disrespect.
- High job pressure, unreasonable deadlines over a long time and too little influence over day to day work could result in psychologically unsafe conditions.
Between 10% and 25% of Canadian workplaces allow mentally injurious work conditions, according to the Mental Health Coalition.
Federal legislation enacted in 2004 established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposed serious penalties for violations resulting in injuries and death. Guidelines being developed for psychological safety in the workplace are expected to go further.
The value to the Canadian economy of addressing preventable mental injury in the workplace has been estimated at about $8 billion.
Strategies to developing psychologically safe work places include the following:
Sources: Benefits Canada, Mental Health Coalition of Canada, Health Canada
Read the report on trends in psychologically healthy workplace
- Ensure that employees know what options are available to help them deal with psychologically unsafe conditions.
- Remind employees of your employer assistance program and other resources available.