Dr. Katy Kamkar: Five pathways to better mental health in the workplace
A new reports suggests Mondays are actually no more miserable than Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2012 9:59AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 27, 2012 8:45AM EDT
Maintaining not only a physically safe workplace but also a psychologically safe work environment is the responsibility of all employers.
Tthe Shain Report, released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, noted: “Common workplace practices that create foreseeable risks of mental injury can lead to legal liability under certain circumstances."
Those circumstances include: chronic stress caused by work conditions; excessive demands from supervisors and management; and unpaid overtime that can lead to mental harm.
Some additional examples included: reporting to different supervisors with conflicting agendas; being denied promotion or recognition despite effort or commitment; failure of the boss to recognize a “good” job rather than a “perfect” job despite the completion of the task.
“The Road to Psychological Safety: Legal, Scientific and Social Foundations for a National Standard for Psychological Safety” is the latest report by Dr. Martin Shain, released by the Mental health Commission of Canada.
Dr. Shain defines “a psychologically safe workplace as one that has made every reasonable effort to protect the mental health of its employees, and has not acted negligent, reckless, or intentional in causing risk. Mental injury can result in psychologically unsafe workplaces, possibly in the form of debilitating anxiety, depression, and burnout or even cardiovascular disease, higher consumption of alcohol and susceptibility to infectious diseases”.
Mental injury can also happen when:
- Job demands and requirements exceed worker skill levels
- Employees do not have control over the means, manner and methods of their work
- If there is no support to help advise, plan or to give them practical resources
In other words, when the job demands or requirements are too high, it likely results in burnout, emotional exhaustion, disengagement and psychological and physical health consequences.
This is particularly true when we don’t have enough resources or skills and don’t perceive ourselves as being able to cope with the job demands, which, in turn, could lead to feelings of helplessness and a sense of not having control over our work.
Positive psychological health occurs when organizations offer consistent recognition and acknowledgement and are fair.
Five pathways to better mental health at work are posited within the Shain Report:
- Routinely identify job hazards, psychological as well as physical, leading to risk.
- Conduct regular internal reviews of data on the mental health of employees;
- Respond to risks by having a system in place;
- Access to information that provides validated practical responses to risks;
- Have policies and procedures in place for the prevention and management of mental health disorders: for instance, accommodation, return to work, access to treatment by certified service providers.