Developing a positive working environment where all employees are supported is key to looking after the mental wellbeing of your staff, and freeing them up to be their most productive selves.
A safe and healthy workplace is one which is inclusive and caters for the needs of all workers. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a two-fold approach where the development of long-term policies is coupled with direct support services for workers is most effective.
Let’s take a look at the elements of a positive workplace, how to minimise potential risks to the wellbeing of your workers and what types of policies are crucial.
characteristics of a safe and healthy workplace
By taking steps to improve the working environment, not only is the office a more pleasant place for everybody to be, but the risk of workers suffering from or exacerbating a pre-existing mental health condition is reduced.
A safe and healthy workplace is one that offers:
- The opportunity for staff to take regular rest breaks.
- Minimal requirements to work overtime or have too high a workload, or at the very least adequate division of labour to minimise the impact of excessive workload on staff.
- Workplace mentoring and support programs.
- Flexible work hours where required.
COmmitment to a strategy for creating a healthy working environment
It is not simply enough to announce your intention to foster a supportive, healthy and safe workplace – instead, a proactive strategy needs to be designed and implemented.
In practice, this is likely to include commitments from all areas of the business to:
- Ensure that policies, mission statements and procedures are designed and published (and easily available to all staff)
- Implement the strategies and ensure that the commitment is not simple lip service – for example, ensuring that flexible arrangements are actually offered, not just promised.
- Consult with workers as to what they consider are essential elements of a safe and healthy workplace.
Minimising potential hazards and risks
When formulating strategies, it is important to consider whether there are any hazards or risks to the mental health of your staff that could derail the improvements being implemented.
Risks to look out for include:
- Poor management, including lack of control and a failure to provide recognition or reward.
- Workplace conflict (whether between peers or in the chain of command).
- Bullying or harassment.
- Excessive workloads and stress.
When staff are feeling overwhelmed because of difficulties with their work itself, the likelihood of having a healthy and safe workplace is far lower.
proactive measures to achieve a healthy workplace
One of the most important elements of creating a safe and healthy workplace is having adequate policies and procedures in place. In practice, this will mean policies relating to:
- A commitment to a safe and healthy working environment
- Confidentiality, mental health training and general mental health guidelines
- Harassment and bullying
- Reasonable adjustments to help workers who are struggling with mental health issues.
By having these policies in place, and ensuring that they are adhered to, all staff are able to be supported and an inclusive workplace is encouraged.
Where to get assistance
If you are interested in improving your workplace, we can help you formulate the right policies and procedures. Talk to our team today.