Annual Conference

SF14 Session 11: Team based approaches to supporting the psychological health of the workforce

By February 21, 2014 No Comments

Mr Lovelock spoke first and began by defining psychological health. He explained that psychological health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, copes with stress, and achieves work productively. Mr Lovelock explained that that work can be a negative environment for some and can negatively affect their wellbeing. Types of workplace stress include: work factors, physical environment factors, organisational practices, workplace change and relationships.

Mr Lovelock said that current stress has at least some impact on physical health. Research has found that 1 in 5 Australians report that stress has a strong or very strong impact on their physical health. An investigation conducted in 2013 found that Australians reported significantly lower wellbeing compared with data from 2011 and 2012. There were also significantly higher levels of stress and distress as well as elevated levels of stress in the workplace. Further, Australians reported lower wellbeing and job satisfaction at work.

Various workplace issues that can create problems with health and wellbeing have been identified and include: lack supportive managers and colleagues, insufficient feedback and recognition about performance, low level of control over work, and change being poorly-managed. Factors associated with psychological health in the workplace include: feeling supported at work, strong leadership, clear role definition, adequate feedback and recognition, feeling that one’s safety is looked after, and feeling that one’s employer cares for workers’ mental and physical health.
Mr Lovelock spoke about the cost of unhealthy workplaces. The average claim for psychological injury is the fastest growing and most expensive area of compensation. Mental illness costs Australians approximately $20 billion per annum and $6.5 billion is lost each year by corporations failing to provide support for employers.

Jan Louise Godfrey spoke about the underpinnings of the APS work on improving psychological health in the workplace. She explained that while Individual factors play a large role in a person’s wellbeing, factors in the organisational climate play a large role in protecting persons at risk from struggling with poor wellbeing. Ms Godfrey stated that the APS defines a psychological healthy workplace as one in which the workplace successfully fosters employee health and wellbeing, thereby enhancing organizational performance and productivity. She introduced us to the Organisational Health Framework (Hart and Cooper, 2001), the dominant model used by the APS in understanding psychological health within the workplace. Within this framework, psychological wellbeing is related to: role clarity, team engagement, supportive leadership, morale, workplace stress, and development/growth.

Ms Godfrey explained that the APS conducts assessments within organisations to determine levels of psychological wellbeing and look at strategies to improve this. She explained that workplaces should aim for a balance between supportive leadership and role clarity. In terms of team engagement, workplaces should strive to utilize a consultation style of engagement in which employees are consulted about decisions that affect their role but they aren’t brought together to facilitate changes. In regard to morale, she explained that workplaces should strike a balance between individual employee morale and team morale. 

Related links

APS Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program

Organisational Health Framework

Guarding minds@Work