What Is Considered A Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace?
To understand what a psychologically healthy and safe workplace is, it may first warrant a definition of mental health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as:
“a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
The definition is clearly focused on the positive aspects of mental health as opposed to focusing purely on the absence of illness or stigma. This is important to recognise as it is a common misconception that mental health is purely an absence of illness. Somewhat similarly, a mentally healthy workplace is often misconstrued as simply one that is willing to accept and not discriminate against people with a mental illness. This is still essential but is a low bar for employers to reach as it doesn’t require much if any action on their part.
The term “mentally healthy workplace” is often tainted by the focus on illness and stigma, rather than the presence of positive aspects. A better term to use in this context is “psychological health and safety”. There are many definitions of a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.
The National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (2013) defines a psychologically healthy and safe workplace as: “a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless or intentional ways”.
The scope of the new ISO 45003 standard for Psychological Health and Safety at Work : Managing psychosocial risks is:
"To prevent work related psychological injury and ill health and to actively promote wellbeing within an occupational health and safety management system."
These definitions encapsulate two main responsibilities for employers:
- To promote wellbeing
- To prevent harm
This is opposed to the common understanding of a “mentally healthy workplace” which for many organisations, could be achieved passively.
In comparison, psychological health and safety at work requires committed actions on behalf of an organisation.
To achieve a positive result, it must be recognised that employee mental health can be impacted at work from both the employer’s areas of responsibility e.g. workload, co-worker and supervisor support, autonomy etc, and the employee’s individual factors e.g. practising self-care, nurturing positive relationships, savouring positive experiences.
Mental health is a continuum ranging from illness, to wellness to flourishing. 1 in 4 people each year are likely to reach the point on the continuum where they have a diagnosable mental illness. and suicide is the single biggest killer of men in the UK and rising.
Workplace wellbeing health and safety is a large-scale issue that needs a scalable solution to proactively address mental health from both employer and employee perspectives.
Blog provided by BMR Health & Wellbeing