By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

The American Psychological Association, in its November issue of The Monitor, noted that “It sounds intuitive: Give employees reasonable workloads, control over their jobs and support when they need it and the companies they work for will thrive”. Yet, how often do we hear people complaining about work? Actually, how many of us who work for companies complain about our daily situations at work? I certainly hear about major work were from my patients.

A report by Safe Work Australia in 2016, a government sponsored agency that develops and evaluates workplace safety laws found that employers who prioritized productivity over employee well-being lose on average $6 billion per year…about 4.5 billion in US dollars due to higher levels of employee absences and lower levels of employee engagement and commitment. They went on to point out that there has to be a limit to the constant focus on growth and productivity because humans have a finite capacity for how much they can produce in a day.

Other researchers, Dollard et al in Stress and Health online Jan. 2017, have found that when health care workers are operating in low social-climate work groups they tended to have more work related injuries. This they attributed to the increase in emotional exhaustion.

In order to increase psychological safety and improve employee mental health experts recommend:
1. Employers should design jobs that give employees more control over their work. This can include such things as self-managed work teams, continuous improvement teams, participative decision making and employee suggestion forums.
2. They should encourage senior management to establish manageable demands and working hours.
3. Communication from managers that reminds employees of employee-assistance programs and other services they can tap for help is also very important. On site health programs and screenings for things such as depression and anxiety as well as programs that promote physical and emotional well-being can have very positive results.
4. Provide opportunities for continuing education courses and tuition reimbursement.
5. Provide opportunities for coaching and mentoring as well as leadership development. Lunchtime learning programs can be very positive.
6. Develop ways to recognize employee accomplishments.

While most of the world lacks behind Australia in terms of a national effort to improve psychological health, researchers in the US are trying to catch up. They note that workers in less psychologically healthier workplaces have taken 43% more sick days per month than workers in healthier settings. This translates into big bucks for companies.

The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards and Organizational Excellence awards, honor employers that have implemented workplace practices that foster employee well-being and enhance organizational performance. These awards have been given to both small and large companies. Each year when I read about the companies honored by APA I am amazed and excited. It is really a joy to hear testimonials by people working for these groups. On site yoga classes, stress balls, break rooms filled with healthy snacks and even opportunities for people to just go take a walk to refresh themselves may seem like simple things. But companies that provide these kinds of benefits generally are companies that offer an overall respect for their employees and gain an enormous buy in from their employees. This results in greater productively, greater profit and greater employee health and satisfaction. To me, that sounds like a win-win!

To learn more about how to create a healthy workplace environment and the award program go to http://www.apaexcellence.org.

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