Unlock more work happiness: tackle Psychosocial Hazards

by Rob Sheppard

[Approx 3.5 min read]

Does your workplace experience heavy workloads, have unclear roles for its people or little to no communication between managers, teams and individuals?

If it does, then we just identified some of the criteria to suggest you have ‘psychosocial hazards’ in the workplace.

In this article, we’ll expand on last month’s article [Right to Disconnect Puts the ‘Off’ in Office Hours.] that touched on psychosocial hazards and dive into what they are, how they affect us and what you and your teams can do to create a happier [and healthier] work environment.

Why do we have this duty of care?

Every state in Australia has adopted the model regulations dealing with psychosocial hazards. In WA, this was adopted into the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 – further supported by regulations and non-statutory codes of practice and guides.

This now means breaching your duty of care by not addressing psychosocial hazards can lead to penalties.

What is a psychosocial hazard?

Safe Work Australia defines psychosocial hazards as:

anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health).

You could be forgiven for thinking this is quite a broad definition… and for good reason when you see the types of hazards this legislation encompasses.

[Author note: Each of these hazard types are hyperlinked for your ease of exploring in detail.]

How do they affect us?

Ignoring psychosocial hazards in the workplace can have significant consequences beyond potential penalties.

These hazards can create a toxic work environment, leading to:

  • Decreased employee engagement and productivity.
  • Increased absenteeism and turnover.
  • Damage to the organisation’s reputation / brand.

If you’re a business owner (or the leader-in-chief), what can you do?

There are a range of higher-level solutions to address psychosocial hazards in the workplace, going beyond simply avoiding penalties and ‘ticking off through a policy’. Here is the FREE way to get up to speed in the first instance:

These codes explain everything you need to know- such as how to start the assessment process, examples of implementing controls to manage the hazards and how to monitor the results.

Using this knowledge, you can then delegate to your managers on your expectations of how they can manage their teams.

If you’re a manager, what can you do?

Last month’s article provided some examples such as reviewing workloads and expectations of deadlines for the work to be done (given your influence over the day-to-day).

Here are four more COMMON and PRACTICAL steps you can also take that are easy to implement right now:

  1. Job / Work demands: Check the team are able to manage their workload in the time allocated and adjust if necessary.
  2. Inadequate reward and recognition: Provide positive feedback on job and task performance (‘talk to your people’).
  3. Poor organisational justice: Ensure that policies and procedures are applied consistently and fairly.
  4. Lack of role clarity: In consultation with the team, establish clear position descriptions.

Four common and practical steps can immediately make a difference.

If you’re an employee, what can you do?

Not speaking up is the hardest challenge you might face. That’s right, not speaking up.

The legislation and resources (see the links above) are now very, very clear on the rights you hold and you can use this knowledge as a safety net to explore how you can approach the issues you might be facing.

Look to any policies your company might have to guide this process and definitely speak to someone you trust. In the meantime, here is a potential script for starting an example conversation that is based on the book ‘Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High’.

Start with Curiosity, Not Criticism: Instead of being perceived to be attacking or blaming your manager, you could say:

‘Hi [Manager’s Name], I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with some of the deadlines and workload. I was wondering if we could chat about how we might be able to prioritise things or delegate some tasks to ensure we can all meet our goals effectively.’

And if it’s all still confusing?

Contact one of our team who will be happy to help you navigate these changes- simply click the link below and reach out to us now.