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This month we are looking at health and wellbeing in the workplace and asking the question: 

How is your workplace health and wellbeing?

We will be looking at awareness, early intervention, work-related stress,
and creating a safe and healthy workplace environment.


Psychological injuries caused by or related to the workplace have become a major concern to Australian employees and employers. The negative impact on individuals, as well as the larger costs associated with the long periods of employee absence is typical of these kinds of injuries. Between 2008–09 and 2012–13, around 90% of workers’ compensation claims involving a mental disorder were linked to work-related stress or mental stress (1), with the most common causes of mental stress being work pressure, work-related harassment or bullying, or exposure to workplace or occupational violence.

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Mental health can be adversely

affected by exposure to a range

of factors in the workplace.

An employee’s mental health can also be adversely affected by such factors in a workplace as a poorly designed or managed work environment, mentally, physically or emotionally demanding work, or a traumatic event. When exposed to these kinds of issues in the workplace, the advanced stress levels they cause can lead to what we call ‘work-related psychological injuries’. In turn, this leads to high levels of unplanned absences including sick leave, staff turnover, withdrawal, and poor work and poor product quality (2). In the long term this stress can also lead to depression and anxiety.

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Did you know 20 times more sick days per month are taken by workers with severe depression?

How can we avoid these psychological injuries?

In Australia, all jurisdictions are covered by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation, of which the general principle is that employers, so far as is reasonably practicable, are required to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health (3). Not addressing risks to psychological health in the workplace can incur significant financial costs to the business.

The best way for employers to abide by their work health and safety duties is to design a work system and set of processes that protect their workers from physical and psychological harm – then from there, to also consult with and monitor the health and disorders of all workers. Close monitoring of workers’ health can lead to early intervention, which is key to providing appropriate support. Employees also need to be mindful of the dynamic that businesses are meant to produce results.

Early signs of stress such as an increase in unplanned absences, withdrawal, or deteriorating work performances, should be looked into in order to identify and address a possible workplace issue. If such an issue is found to be causing a worker stress, early intervention can often prevent the situation from deteriorating and a worker developing a mental disorder or psychological injury (4). We are all busy, but it is important that both the employee and the employer try and have the discussion. Even the best managers can’t read people’s minds. This sentiment is also relevant to the employer i.e. ask how the staff are going.

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Work-related stress has been linked

with high levels of:

- Unplanned absences including sick leave

- Poor work and poor product quality

- Staff turnover

- Withdrawal 

The process of recognising and acknowledging a work-related psychological injury can be complex and confusing, but here at Clear Health Psychology we aim to ensure that any injured workers are understood and supported through the entire treatment process. All of our psychologists provide practical, effective and confidential support to children, adolescents, adults and couples (each of these are specialty areas). We also work with employers to help them manage their people and teams and helping employee and employer find their voice together for shared understanding. Finding your voice is important not just at work but in life.
 
Confidentiality is a critical element when dealing with all aspects of Employee Assistance Programs and Clear Health Psychology adheres at all times to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) rules and regulations with storage of information and professional guidelines for all of our Psychologists. Dr Hawkins has worked with AHPRA so is knowledgeable and upholds the highest of ethical standards across the entire business. Our administration team are trained to ensure there is easy communication between an injured worker and the clinic, as well as supporting the worker with any additional paperwork and changes in appointment times or cancellations.

Click here for further information about the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available through Clear Health Psychology. 

(1-4) 2018, ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’, Safe Work Australia

 

Dr Maxine Hawkins

Co-Author - Eve Newton-Johnson