Psychological Health and Safety

A person’s job and workplace should not harm their mental health. Many employers recognize this, and strive to create psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. They promote workers’ wellbeing and work to control risks and prevent harm.

But some things are outside of an employer’s control. For example, genetics, personal issues, family concerns, and financial challenges can all impact an individual’s mental health.

Maintaining a psychologically healthy workplace is therefore a joint responsibility. Employers must minimize mental health hazards at the workplace. Individuals should strive to understand what they need to maintain good mental health— for themselves and their coworkers—and seek support if those needs are not being addressed.

Dangers

We all have basic emotional needs. When these needs are not met in the workplace, it can cause psychological (or mental) harm to workers. For example:

  • Lack of recognition may lead employees to believe their work is not valuable.
  • Excessive and/or conflicting job demands may cause undue, prolonged stress, ultimately resulting in worker burnout.
  • An unaddressed culture of toxic masculinity may discourage workers from seeking help for physical injuries and mental health concerns.

Controls

There are many factors that can affect the psychological health of a workplace. Employers and management should regularly assess these factors to ensure they are not negatively impacting workers’ mental health—and make changes when needed.

These factors include:

  • Psychological support
  • Organizational culture
  • Clear leadership and expectations
  • Civility and respect Psychological job demands
  • Growth and development
  • Recognition and reward
  • Involvement and influence
  • Workload management
  • Engagement
  • Work/life balance
  • Psychological protection from violence, bullying, and harassment
  • Protection of physical safety
  • Other chronic stressors as identified by workers.

Workers should strive to better understand how to protect their well-being in the workplace—and the well-being of their colleagues. They can play a positive role by:

  • Learning to communicate in an emotionally intelligent way. For example, by identifying biases, acknowledging differences, speaking with clarity, and listening to others
  • Respectfully interacting with others without judging them
  • Supporting coworkers who may be struggling due to mental health or addiction issues
  • Monitoring their own mental health and substance use, and seeking help when needed
  • Speaking up about fit-for-duty concerns (with regard to themselves or others), when required.

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