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Safety Article

How safe is your mind at work?

By Kathy Jurgens

Everyone wants to go to work and know that they are safe from harm or negligence from their employer. There is an understanding today that workplaces should be safe places. Health and safety regulations are in place to protect us from unnecessary harm. There is low tolerance for the employer who does not abide by those regulations in our society. Labour unions continue to fight for tougher regulations, while employees reap the benefits. It seems safe to say, our society now values safe work environments.

In workplaces today we have back safety, foot safety, head protection safety, hand safety, but we have been slow to pick up on the concept of mind safety, or what has been termed psychological safety. A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one that promotes employees’ psychological well-being and does not harm employee mental health in negligent, reckless or intentional ways.

One doesn’t have to go too far these days to pick up a newspaper or magazine, go online or chat in the lunch room with colleagues to hear about the impact of mental health in the workplace mental health issues are certainly on the rise and the impact is affecting us all. Employers and employees alike should be looking to find strategies and ways for continual improvement when addressing mental health at work.

For employers, the reasons to take action are compelling. There are current legal and regulatory mandates that are emphasising a growing responsibility in this area. It has also been long recognized that a healthy employee is likely better equipped to achieve maximum productivity levels as well. The financial cost of ill employees when mental health is a factor can be significant with several financial cases being made. Let’s not also forget the impact on workplace moral and culture; mental health issues are often shunned and avoided at work and in doing so, problems often arise.

Ironically, one reason those with a focus on physical health and safety in the workplace should be most concerned with is that reduced psychological health and safety contributes to accidents, incidents and injuries. Most jobs require employees to have good concentration, social skills and the ability to solve problems effectively. These skills are undermined by most mental health conditions. As a result, co-workers, customers and employees are at risk of serious, and sometimes dire, outcomes due to unrecognized or poorly managed mental health conditions. 1

How harmful is your workplace when it comes to mental health?
Scan these questions to see if you agree/disagree; the more strongly you disagree/agree. The greater the disagreement with the statement, the more likely there could be some effects to your mental health and safety. To explore further go to www.guardingmindsatwork.com for more information.

• I am satisfied with the amount of involvement I have in decisions that affect my work.
• I feel I am well-rewarded (in terms of praise and recognition) for the level of effort I put out for my job.
• In the last six months, too much time pressure at work has caused me no worry, “nerves” or stress.
• In the last six months, I have experienced no worry, “nerves” or stress from mental fatigue at work.
• I am satisfied with the fairness and respect I receive on the job.
• My supervisor supports me in getting my work done.

1 Guarding Minds @ Work: A Workplace Guide to Psychological Safety and Heal
(
www.guardingmindsatwork.ca) is a unique free Canadian resource designed to address and enhance psychological safety and health in the workplace.

Kathy Jurgens is the National Program Manger of Mental Health Works, a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association. She works extensively with organizations to develop approaches to improve mental health outcomes in workplaces through training, consulting and custom services. www.mentalhealthworks.ca
 

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