Much has been written in the past few years about the need for a psychologically healthy workplace, and I am thankful this issue is finally gaining recognition for its importance and value.
After all, our workplaces have changed dramatically. Work and organizations have become so very complex as we deal with a global clientele, global competition and a myriad of technology that seems to be integrated into everything we do. Not only that, our techno-gadget world allows us to operate 24/7.
So it is easy to misplace an emphasis on the importance of people in the workplace. And this is what a psychologically healthy workplace is all about — people and their relationship to work.
Fortunately, more and more organizational leaders are accepting responsibility for building and maintaining a psychologically healthy workplace. They now have proof that employee productivity leads to increased profitability. They have proof that employee well-being and early return-to-work programs after an injury are cost effective and boost worker self-esteem.
Leaders now see that investing in employee development not only builds capacity, but acts as an effective recruitment and retention tool for talented candidates.
Finally, these leaders and organizations know and understand that creating a workplace culture that engages the hearts, minds, emotions and spirit of their people will result in a psychologically healthy workplace with its multiple spinoff benefits.
To encourage organizations to build psychologically healthy workplaces, to reward leaders who achieve this success and to educate others, the American Psychological Association (APA) and its Canadian counterparts have identified five key areas that contribute to a healthy and productive workplace. These include the following:
Employee involvement — When employees are involved in decision making, it gives them increased personal control and job autonomy. This enhances job satisfaction, employee morale, loyalty and commitment and results in increased productivity and reduced turnover and absenteeism. Strategies for employee involvement include team-based activities, task forces, participative management and employee feedback forums.
Work/life balance — Acknowledging that employees have a life outside of work and assisting them to manage their multiple responsibilities helps to diminish the conflicts between work and home. The result is improved morale and job satisfaction as well as less absenteeism and turnover. Work/life balance is often assisted through flexible work and personal leave arrangements, flexible or menu benefits, part-time or job sharing roles and/or creative financial assistance plans.
Employee growth and development — Organizations that provide opportunities for employee skill and knowledge development enable individuals to make a stronger APL contribution. From a corporate perspective, employee growth provides internal flexibility and promotional opportunity. Employees, on the other hand, increase their motivation as well as their confidence as their skills develop. Everyone wins. Plan to make continuous learning programs available and provide tuition support and career counselling as well as executive coaching.
Health and safety — Interfering in the personal lives of their employees was once considered a “no-no.” Today, however, companies are recognizing that focusing on employee health assessment, prevention and treatment reduces health risks and therefore overall corporate costs. In other words, healthy employees are more productive. Initiatives such as health screening, educational and recreational programs, workplace health and safety training and stress management as well as health insurance coverage are the most common strategies to address this issue.
Employee recognition — Recognizing employees for their individual and collective contributions is a key way to make people feel valued and appreciated. Programs include both formal recognition ceremonies as well as a variety of monetary and non-monetary strategies. The result is increased employee satisfaction and higher levels of self-esteem and morale.