Workplace mental safety is an important subject that even the leading firms don’t pay much attention to, but did you know that over 1 trillion US dollars are lost every year from the world economy due to absenteeism and low productivity due to poor mental health and work? Straining.
The World Health Organisation published this report in 2019, a year before the Covid-19 Pandemic. Clearly, employees were suffering, and it was made worse with corona added to the mix. But, what is the reason behind this widespread mental distress? Are organisations doing something to help their workers?
An average salaried Australian employee spends as much as 8 billion Australian dollars per year on treating depression caused due to work stress, and 693 million Australian dollars are spent on the recovery of damages caused due to job straining or bullying. - ARC(Australian Research Council)
Fostering Psychological safety in virtual meetings (when working from home) and at the workplace effectively addresses poor mental health due to work and other issues - job straining, low productivity issues due to poor mental health, familial or personal issues causing mental distress that affects productivity.
“Inclusivity, diversity, and equity are now a widespread agenda that various businesses are focusing on encompassing in their business environment”, as per the statement in the Harvard Business Review report published in 2018. Businesses do benefit from diverse opinions and heeding the varying life experiences in different societies.
The matter of question here is that the reality is different than most would expect; many individuals report feeling less confident sharing their ideas for fear of rejection from team members. In fact, in a survey conducted by O.C. Tanner, 79% of employees resigned from their job due to a lack of appreciation from their seniors.
Employees working in an urban office setting have reported higher psychological distress levels than workers in rural areas. Individuals in rural work settings have reported facing physical and psychological issues due to poor family life. - AWB (Australian Wheat Board)
Workers’ disinterest and motivation to actively participate are even lower while working from home; remote working is no less different in terms of equality and inclusion. Businesses need to foster psychological safety in the workplace so employees feel elated to express their ideas, and a liberal acceptance of suggestions is also important.
Employees feeling included and having no stress of repercussions is the key to enhancing teamwork; in technical terms, you may call it psychological safety. Regardless of the work setting - remote or workplace - every team members’ opinions must be considered just as important.
Empowered teams mean a highly productive team which will further increase productivity and more profits for the company. Rather than accepting ideas randomly, the team manager can devise sessions for team members to express their concerns and opinions, participate in the innovation process, and just communicate.
Foster psychological safety in virtual meetings is where companies can take the first step toward effective communication. The teams can take time aside from daily KRAs to communicate and share ideas in remote working environments. Doing so may greatly benefit the team and increase productivity.
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As vast as the concept of psychological safety is, more transformations, it requires for implementing it effectively. But working on the areas of concern or areas/employees that require immediate assistance must be prioritised. So here's how businesses can foster psychological safety at workplaces in just five steps:
Every team member should be treated as a responsible grown-up capable of understanding their work responsibilities. There's no requirement for arbitrarily treating employees. Hosting Q & A sessions support communication and provide leeway for creating bridges for understanding and acknowledging one another.
The team leaders or managers are especially responsible for the inclusion of teammates and for creating a free environment where individuals can express their concerns, suggestions and ideas freely. It can be done by establishing minimum targets and supporting the team members to achieve them. Taking out time other than work meetings for team members to express their dilemmas and concerns regarding the targets and work environment.
One out of every five Australians has taken leave from work due to experiencing anxiety, depression, or poor mental health in the past 12 months - Heads Up Australia
No change is ever established in a day or so; it will take time for your team to fall into a rhythm that's comfortable for all. Learn from the mistakes and errors to develop an all-inclusive communication system for the team. Get regular feedback from the team members. Erase, edit, and evolve your meeting to meet the needs of all members so they can express their ideas without hesitation, especially when fostering psychological safety in virtual meetings for remote working.
Regardless of the position, mutual respect among employees is essential for enhancing teamwork. Step 4 is not limited to just the teammates or workplace but respecting each employee in the company, customers, suppliers, the members of a community, and even the society should be treated with a level of dignity and respect.
There will be visible results when you have successfully implemented psychological safety in the workplace. Calculate the benefits, the areas of improvement, and the level of participation of each employee. Work on improving, as perfection can't be achieved; it is rather expected.
The aim of establishing psychological safety in the work environment is not just for improving the business process but also to get rid of the enigma that individuals may hold against each other due to a lack of proper communication. Such practices are essential at industrial levels and at a societal level to make workdays (especially Mondays), if not every day, less straining for working professionals.
Under the jurisdiction of all states in Australia, the workers' compensation law is in effect, which establishes a no-error framework for compensating employees for work-related injuries and damages, psychological distress due to work falls under this law. The law supports workers in case of physical/psychological injury or illness caused due to work.
Employees bound within a work contract are the ones that are obliged to get compensation under the workers' contract. Companies must compensate employees for work-related injuries and support them through suitable insurance and Return To Work (RTW) policies. Such laws are useful in ensuring that employees do not get laid off but rather get compensated for injuries incurred at the workplace.
Over 90 per cent of Australians believe mental health at work is an important issue, whereas 88 per cent find physical health more important. - ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Mental safety fostering in a virtual meeting or working in an apparent work environment is necessary for various reasons and at many levels. But, the objective is of utmost importance is the overall well being of employees. Many workers often despise their work even if they work in the field of their interest due to the mental pressure and distress that is often caused due to a lack of mental safety.
The steps we discussed above and the ones implemented by the judiciary may or may not be effective in ensuring the mental well-being of employees. Still, it is an individual responsibility of co-workers and managers to encourage individual participation and expression of ideas effectively.
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Charles writes blogs and articles for students who are facing problems with their management assignments. His articles have been featured on several websites. He has contributed to the academic enhancement of students from the University of New South Wales, Central Queensland University, Edith Cowan University, etc. He joined the team of My Assignment Services as a consulting expert and now is a full-time academic help provider. His expertise in the field of management covers topics like leadership management, human resource management, business management and several others. His blogs focus on solving the most complex of the queries and simplifying the processes.
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