Unpacking Psychosocial Hazards: Protecting Employee Wellbeing

With the rise of psychosocial hazards a critical concern for Australian workplaces, it’s time to shift toward a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

In our workplaces the concept of “psychosocial hazards” is gaining traction as a critical factor affecting employee wellbeing and mental health. But what exactly are these hazards, and why are they getting so much attention? Let’s break it down.

Defining Psychosocial Hazards

Put simply, psychosocial hazards are emotional and social stressors that arise in the workplace, impacting our mental and emotional wellbeing. These hazards are anything in the design and management of work that creates stress for employees on an emotional level or within social interactions with others. Whether these stressors manifest frequently, over an extended period, or trigger deep-seated emotions, they have the potential to erode our wellbeing and mental health over time.

Commonly, these are the factors that researchers and experts have identified as leading to burnout in workers. Given the rise in burnout rates, particularly exacerbated by the global pandemic, governments around the world are beginning to consider more formal requirements for workplaces to safeguard their employees.

The Shift towards Protection

Most countries worldwide already have legal requirements in place that mandate workplaces to prioritise both physical and mental health under work, health and safety legislation. However, the landscape has shifted significantly putting standards, codes and legislation in place, designed to shield employees from burnout more effectively.

Obligations that are now in place are prompting workplaces to evaluate factors such as role clarity, achievable job demands, supervisor support, change management, emotional demands, remote/isolated work and organisational justice to name a few. If these risks to employees’ mental health are present within the workplace, leaders and workplaces are tasked with minimising or eliminating them to the best of their ability.

Navigating the Grey Area

Although the intention is clear, the execution remains a grey area, leaving many leaders and workplaces struggling with how to implement these principles effectively. In Australia, many state governments have elevated the code of practice to law, creating a sense of urgency among Australian workplaces to identify and mitigate these risks. The stakes are high, as failing to address psychosocial hazards could lead to penalties, fines, and in extreme cases, even jail time if the organisation fails to demonstrate diligent efforts to foster psychological health and safety.

Looking Ahead

The rise of psychosocial hazards as a critical concern in workplaces in Australia signifies a shift toward a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing. As our understanding of mental health deepens, so does our responsibility to address emotional and social stressors that impact the workforce. While the path forward might seem uncertain, the increasing emphasis on safeguarding employee mental health reflects a broader commitment to nurturing workplaces that promote both physical and psychological safety.

In this evolving landscape, leaders and organisations must proactively identify, address, and minimise psychosocial hazards, contributing to a healthier, more productive, and ultimately more resilient workforce. The journey towards achieving these goals may be complex, but the impact on employees’ lives and the success of organisation is undoubtedly worth the effort.

Awareness Co. is committed to helping leaders create cultures of safety and care and to minimise psychosocial hazards in their workplace. Since 2017, our team of experienced Human Resources, Mental Health and Change professionals have been leading the way with practical solutions that support workplace wellbeing strategies and meet Work Health & Safety obligations.

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