As we limped our way to the end of a chaotic 2021, we have hopefully had an opportunity to rest and recharge, ready to face up to the new year. But what will 2022 hold? Are we ready for it? Are our teams ready for it?
Now more than ever, the concept of ‘wellbeing’ has become the single-most important factor in keeping teams at work and productive. Whether you are future proofing for ‘the great resignation’ or simply ensuring adequate labour to ensure services are delivered when needed and we get goods out the door, we need to consider impacts to wellbeing.
Given wellbeing is defined as a state of equilibrium or balance that can be affected by life events, challenges, or one’s work, it is not hard to see why so many of us found our wellbeing compromised under the unforeseen and unrelenting pressures of the past 2 years.
But how do we get that equilibrium back?
If we remember that wellbeing is not simply the absence of ill-health; but the presence of satisfaction and fulfilment, both in a person’s work and personal life, we need to investigate the dynamic interaction that work has on mental health and that mental health has on work. Individuals bring their “whole selves” to work, so it is not possible to separate the two exclusively.
Wellbeing is a complex interaction of inner, outer and work life factors, which change and evolve throughout the work lifecycle. To truly understand individual wellbeing, a comprehensive assessment is required to understand not only negative aspects of wellbeing such as depression, stress and anxiety as is common in many clinical assessments, but also a variety of positive factors and drivers of wellbeing. These factors may be intrinsic to the individual, or arise from a wide variety of workplace factors, further demonstrating the interrelationship of work on individual wellbeing and the dynamic nature of the equilibrium as changes occur in the lifecycle.
The inverse is also true, wellbeing in the workplace is not just the sum of the individuals, but the collective of teams across the organisation, and the systems, culture and practices that support the workforce.
The same principle applies in that to understand organisational wellbeing, you must first identify the factors, both risk and protective, at play.
Understanding this ‘whole person’ concept in the realm of your organisational assessment is critical as not all factors are derived from the work context. Lockdowns provided the perfect social experiment to demonstrate the difference in individual response to a consistent requirement. Intrinsic and broader familial factors become the key driver in one’s ability to adapt and adjust to ‘COVID normal’.
The hub of the strategic wellbeing wheel is comprehensive risk management which must first start with the identification of psychosocial factors.
Psychosocial factors are those elements of the work environment that can have an impact on employees’ psychological responses to work and work conditions. Factors can be protective in that they positively contribute towards wellbeing and safety, or risk factors that may cause psychological health problems.
FBG’s approach to understanding psychosocial risks and their assessment is informed by the internationally established and evidence-based model of Guarding Minds at Work.This model includes specification of 13 key Psychosocial Risk Factors:
- Organizational Culture,
- Psychological and Social Support,
- Clear Leadership & Expectations,
- Civility & Respect,
- Psychological Demands,
- Growth & Development,
- Recognition & Reward,
- Involvement & Influence,
- Workload Management,
- Psychological Protection, and
- Protection of Physical Safety.
Much like physical risk in the workplace, psychological risk can be assessed based on likelihood and consequence of its occurrence and severity. Unlike physical risk, however, we are unable to eliminate all psychosocial risks. Threats to a psychologically safe and healthy workplace can be challenging to identify and address. Whilst psychosocial factors can be viewed as risks, they can equally be seen as areas of opportunity to improve mental health by implementing targeted actions and solutions that minimise negative effects, lift wellbeing, and build positive workplaces.
For organisations to see improvements in mental health, wellbeing and performance, it is important to acknowledge that mental health and wellbeing is an organisational outcome. It is the sum of your risk assessment, control and evaluation processes interacting to reduce workplace risk as low as reasonably practicable whilst optimising wellbeing and performance.
Beyond traditionally offered stand-alone programs or steps to respond to individual instances of psychological ill-health, a strategic approach to organisational wellbeing focuses on solutions that simultaneously promote, protect, and manage wellbeing, where sustainable change to the fabric of the organisation is made, involving systems, practices, and behaviours. No longer is it worth considering the simple outputs of wellbeing initiatives, but rather focus on an organisational-wide result that is a measurable improvement.
A good strategy balances the needs and wants of the team, aligns to the specific risk and protective factors identified in your assessment, is data-driven and evidence-based and embeds continuous evaluation to ensure ongoing improvement. Perhaps most importantly, a good strategy must be lead from the top, and accountability driven throughout teams to the individual level.
If you are marching into 2022 unsure of your organisational wellbeing and the psychosocial factors at play, jump on over to fbggroup.com.au/workplace-wellbeing and take our short pulse check. 10 minutes of your time can be a big investment in the future health, engagement and productivity of your workforce.
Organisations that make the effort to address specific psychosocial factors and create a psychologically healthy workplace have healthier and happier employees, and are likely to reap benefits in productivity, sustainability and growth.
2 World Health Organisation. (2018, March 30). Mental health: Strengthening our response. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response
3 Harvey, S. B., Joyce, S., Tan, L., Johnson, A., Nguyen, H., Modini, M., & Groth, M. (2014). Developing a mentally healthy workplace: A review of the literature. Sydney: University of New South Wales. National Mental Health Commission.
4 LaMontagne, A. D., Martin, A., Page, K. M., Reavley, N. J., Noblet, A. J., Milner, A. J., … & Smith, P. M. (2014). Workplace mental health: developing an integrated intervention approach. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1), 1-11.