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How much do you know about the human and financial cost mental illness has in the workplace?

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This is part one in a two-part series. In modern workplaces, we rely more on peoples’ intelligence and social skills than physical strength—this means mental health is a key to business success.

This presentation by Dr Chris Stevens will give an overview of why promoting psychologically safe and healthy workplaces is so important to people and business. Dr Stevens will also outline the current shift from a focus on psychological illness and reactive approaches, towards more proactive and positive health and safety management strategies.

Who is this presentation for?

This presentation is for leaders, managers, work health and safety consultants and all those who design work and work systems. If you are interested in understanding how you can contribute to a psychologically safe and healthy workplace, you will find this presentation valuable. It will be of great interest to those experiencing a mental health problem.

About the presenter

Dr Chris Stevens is Director and Principal Psychologist with CommuniCorp Group—a consultancy which specialises in maximising individual and organisational performance. Dr Stevens has over 20 years’ experience in consulting and facilitating groups and training programs, he is also an experienced therapist, organisational consultant, as well as an expert facilitator and trainer of facilitators.

Dr Stevens has conducted over one hundred psychological injury workers compensation investigations and has designed and facilitated many programs across Australasia and Europe for government, corporate and educational sectors.

Dr Stevens specialises in the systemic and practical development of psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

Related information

 

TRANSCRIPT

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group

High Performing Sustainable Workplaces and Mental Health, Part 2

Dr Chris Stevens

Director & Principal Psychologist, CommuniCorp Group

[Text: Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy 2012-2022, Virtual Seminar Series, Oct 2014]

[Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy (logo)]

Music playing

[Australian Industry Group (logo)]

[CommuniCorp Group (logo) Text: This presentation cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes in whole or in part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group]

[Text: High Performing Sustainable Workplaces and Mental Health, Part 2]

Dr Chris Stevens: [Director & Principal Psychologist - Communicorp speaking from lectern]

We're starting now to talk more about psychological wellness rather than illness. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about illness

[Audience watching presentation]

and that certainly exists and needs to be dealt with well,

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: TRENDS in Workplace Mental Health.

Image of arrow over increasing graph bars and table with Text:

From To

Mental illness Psychological Wellness

Physical Health and Safety Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces

Tertiary Intervention Primary Intervention]

but it is a much healthier approach to say, "Let's look at wellness, let's look at thriving, let's look at how we start to shift our emphasis," and it is happening in workplaces.

There's obviously been a broadening of the safety remit to include psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. This is more challenging for those of you in the safety space. You know - I appreciate having to get your head around the psychosocial risk factors and hazards, and also about control measures. It's not as straightforward as control measures - you know - for lifting weights or - you know - providing ramps for wheelchair access and so on, but it's doable, and - but we just need to be a little bit more nuanced in our thinking.

Also there is a welcome shift that's occurring that's shifting from just a reactive response to crisis, to looking at more primary interventions and preventative interventions.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: TRENDS in Workplace Mental Health.

Image of arrow pointing upwards next to dot points:

Primary – Prevention – Attend to Source of Stresses Within the Workplace

Page 2 of 10

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Secondary – Early Identification & Intervention – Try to control & minimise harm

Tertiary – Response to serious illness – reactive approaches to employees (e.g. EAP)]

Or just to extrapolate on that last one from primary to tertiary, we need all three of these. We need to respond to serious illness, but an EAP provision is a minimum. It's not going to stop problems. So what you're going to need are - are also the mechanisms in place so that everyone in the workplace can be part of the solution, they can spot issues early and intervene appropriately to control and minimise harm, but the big game of course is prevention. What are the actual causes? How can we create win-win situations where we're creating the environment where people are well but that's also very good for the bottom line? Historically, people really just focused on the tertiary end and they think they've got it covered.

Increasingly, when you look at litigation around psychological safety, that defence no longer stands up.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: TRENDS in Workplace Mental Health.

Image of man approaching stairs holding a briefcase. Text: Psychological Health Continuum, Pathology, Prevention, Flourishing]

We've kind of covered this, but there's been a shift clearly from just focusing on pathology and prevention to this idea of flourishing.

This will be a little Segway now. I want to introduce you to our model of psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, but envisage as a continuum, and this is where I want you to think about your organisations and where you think you might sit on this continuum. Before we look at that though we need perhaps a definition of what is a psychologically safe and healthy workplace?

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: What is a Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplace?

It is "… work environment that promotes employees' psychological well being and allows no harm to employee mental health in negligent, reckless or harmful ways…

Simply, it is one in which every practical effort is made to avoid reasonably foreseeable injury to the mental health of employees."

Stress at Work, Mental Injury and the Law in Canada, Dr. Martin Shain (2009)]

And these definitions are fairly pragmatic – "a work environment that promotes employee psychological well-being and allows no harm to employees' mental health in negligent reckless or harmful ways." So all the definitions here are around reasonableness. "Simply, it is one in which every practical effort is made to avoid reasonably foreseeable injury to the mental health of employees." So, it's a useful definition. Perhaps one thing that's missing in this definition is it's a little negative in that it's just the stick component, but as we'll see and as we've already touched upon, there's also the carrot. There are a lot of incentives for doing this from a business and ethical perspective.

So, let's have a look at that continuum that I mentioned and I know this is complex. Don't worry.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Processes and Capabilities.

Table with Text:

Out of date JD

No assessment of psychological job demand/fit

Out of date or insufficient policy/procedure (RTW, Complaints, B&H)

Page 3 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

Resonant Leadership:

Developing resilience in others

Resilience through change

Coaching

Mindfulness

Other micro-skills

INDICATORS

Unhealthy Workplace

Increase absenteeism

Increase presenteeism

Increase conflict

Increase psychological injury

Increase incivility

Decrease performance

Decrease engagement

Psychologically Safe Workplace

Respect

Robust communication

Person/job fit

Productivity

Engaged workforce

Robust psychological measures {risk registers}

Flourishing Workplace

High alignment

Innovation and creativity

High discretionary effort

Rigorous skilled feedback

Increase performance

Increase engagement]

Page 4 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

I'm going to break it up into three parts over the next slides, but I want to look at it as a whole first just to have this sense that we can understand workplaces as being unhealthy, safe or flourishing and there are particular indicators of each of those that are fairly obvious when you're looking, and there are particular processes and capabilities that sit behind why they're located at that point on the continuum.

A few general points about this somewhat complex slide. First off, when you're thinking about psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, you're thinking about the whole organisation and including thinking very seriously about culture. So, one of the differences for psych safety versus physical safety – I know it's not – it's not completely different - is you have to think much more about interpersonal space, you have to think much more about the social environment. You know - you need be thinking about things like "Do people trust the leadership?", "Do they feel respected?", "Do they feel safe in raising concerns, either about mental health or anything else for that matter?" So, this is the kind of space that we - you need to be thinking about when you're thinking about psychological safety.

Secondly, there are many factors to be addressed. You cannot address them all. So the issue's going to be, "How do I prioritise amongst these factors?", "How do I decide where's the biggest bang for my buck?", "Where do I start?", "Where do I get some runs on the board?" and that's why you need a strategic approach obviously.

Thirdly, that centre there of psychologically safe workplaces in my view is the minimum, and I'll make an argument to you. You don't want to be trying to get flourishing before you get safe. Do you know what I mean? I see a lot of organisations running transformational leadership programmes and their line managers are rude and uncivil, and are hopeless at performance management, and the job descriptions are out of date, and there's been no assessment of psychological job demand. So we don't want to be running before we've learned to crawl, let alone walk. Do you know what I mean? It's really important that we don't just jump to the flourishing end.

Anyway, what does promote a psychological safe and healthy workplace? Well things like good recruitment practices, good induction processes, performance management, good cultural norms, leadership and managerial capabilities, as well as best practice policies and procedures and training around mental health. People in any organisation will give of their discretional effort, and they will give their best thinking if they feel safe and well in a workplace, in short, if they look forward to going to work.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Psychologically Unhealthy Workplace.

INDICATORS

Increase absenteeism

Increase presenteeism

Increase conflict

Increase psychological injury

Increase incivility

Decrease performance

Decrease engagement

PROCESSES AND CAPABILITIES

Out of date JD

No assessment of psychological job demand/fit

Out of date or insufficient policy/procedure (RTW, Complaints, B&H)]

Page 5 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

So, what happens in these places you get higher rates of absenteeism. We all know what presenteeism is, don't we? You know, the lights are on, but no one's home. It costs twice as much as absenteeism in Australia in terms of workplace productivity. So people are unwell at work, or unhappy and at work, and it has a cost that is much higher then the cost of those in the severe end of psychological illness. Do you get this? And the risk is they will drift down to psychological illness the longer that goes on.

We know there are more psych injury claims, conflicts, incivility and performance and engagement drops, and - you know - there's lots of processes and capabilities that are sitting behind those kinds of more toxic workplaces. A safe workplace is one – this is – I'm going to go through this model, this funny little diagram thing,

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Psychologically Safe Workplace.

INDICATORS

Respect

Robust communication

Person/job fit

Productivity

Engaged workforce

Robust psychological measures (risk registers)

PROCESSES AND CAPABILITIES

Diagram]

but really, it's common sense that you need executive commitment in this space, you need to then have appropriate policies and procedures in place that are followable, that you have that people in the workplace have the skills to actually implement. You then need to decide what to do and what not to do. So you're going to need to plan and prioritise. The indicators are obvious – respect, robust communication. Again, it's not nice communication. We need real communication. Almost universally a problem in workplaces is the ability to give and receive feedback and there's no such thing zero harm in this space. We're a fragile being. Being human at times is difficult. Have you noticed that? Yeah, and we can't cure that, but we just do our best.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Flourishing Workplace.

INDICATORS

High alignment

Innovation and creativity

High discretionary effort

Rigorous skilled feedback

Increased performance

Increased engagement

PROCESSES AND CAPABILITIES

Resonant Leadership: Page 6 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

 

Developing resilience in others

Resilience through change

Coaching

Mindfulness

Other micro-skills]

The indicators though are flourishing when you do see it, is very high values alignment, a high innovation and creativity, high discretionary effort, rigorous skilled feedback and that's both in the giving and the receiving. There's a whole lot of micro skills that sit underneath flourishing. So as I said, don't try to start there. Get the basics right first. If there's incivility in your place and it's not - and it's being tolerated, start there. If people aren't doing performance appraisals well and people aren't emerging from it with the capacity to grow and develop, start there. Do you know what I'm saying?

It's not simply a matter of running mental health awareness programs to lift morale and engagement. I think we have to look at basic managerial and basic communication duties as well. To paraphrase again Peter Drucker - my favourite – he says, "There's much too much talk about leadership when there should be talk about management,"

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Mental Health in the Workplace.

Mental Health Continuum

Diagram with Text: Severe Mental Ill-health ("floundering/struggling" – Skills to identify, intervene, refer), Moderate Mental Ill-health, Mild Mental Ill-health, Resilient ("flourishing/high performing") – Skills to build and maintain]

and that is that most people aren't down the severe end. Obviously we need to know how to deal with them and that's part of the training that – you know - people need. "How do I get them to the professional help?" but most people are in that middle.

About 60% of the costs for mental health are in the mild to moderate range. It may not even be diagnosable. So we need to shift our thinking a little bit there.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Mental Health in the Workplace.

Stress

Anxiety

Depression

Substance Abuse

Schizophrenia

Personality Disorders

Autistic Spectrum Disorders

What do these look like at work? Prevalence?]

I just want to cover quickly, well what you do if someone does have a mental health condition in the workplace? First off, what do they look like? Stress itself is not a diagnosis, but you'll begin to see people in distress. About 26% of the population will have a diagnosable anxiety issue somewhere in their life span, about 15% will have depression, 1% worldwide will have schizophrenia, 2% bipolar, substance use Page 7 of 10

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about 5% and personality disorders - my favourite - about 6.5% of the population. That's a lot of Australians, isn't it? What do you do? What do your staff do? What do your managers do?

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: What do you do? What do your staff do? What do your managers do? Image of two women talking at a desk]

What you do is going to depend on what your role is in the organisation. We don't need the same skill sets for people at different levels in the organisation because they're -

[Audience watching presentation]

- that's where the rubber hits the road with respect to mental health in the workplace. They've got to manage these people and they're feeling out of their depth.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: What to do?

Talk to the person

Listen to what they're saying

Maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position

Use open-ended questions

Stay calm, fair, firm and consistent

Spend time with the person

Encourage the person to seek professional help]

Talk to the person. The biggest problem is silence around mental health. There are thousands of cases where we've seen good people like yourselves, empathic people, you kind of know something is wrong but you don't initiate the conversation. There are reasons you don't. You're worried about privacy, you're worried about stuffing it up, but the evidence is very, very conclusive, that having this helping conversation and referring people to help is by far the most strategic and helpful thing to do. Mostly it's about listening which is actually the hardest of all communication skills.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Necessary & Sufficient Knowledge/Capabilities?

Executive Staff

 Understand the business case – Compliance, engagement, performance, legal obligations etc.

 Identify preventative Psychological Health & Safety initiatives

Workplace Mental Health identification, intervention and referral

All Staff

Workplace Mental Health identification, intervention and referral

Awareness of internal and external psychological health related resources and referral pathways

Appreciation of WHS responsibilities

People Leaders

All staff knowledge & capabilities +

Page 8 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

 

Fundamentals of:

Psychosocial Risk

Performance management in WMH context

Legislation (DDA, WHS)

Reasonable adjustments

RTW, WHS/PH&S

WHS/HR

All People Leaders capabilities +

Identify and mitigate psychological risks

Coach/advise managers re IM, RTW, WHS

Assess and recognise Psychological Job Demands

Conduct appropriate program evaluation

Understand Work Oriented Treatment principles]

So I mentioned the necessary and sufficient knowledge and capability. So, we've broken them down here to say that executive staff need to understand the business case. They need to understand compliance, engagement, performance, legal obligations etc. They need to drive and identify preventative psych health and safety initiatives and like everyone else in the workplace, they need to be able to identify, intervene and refer. So across all these levels there needs to be a capacity to identify, intervene and refer.

People leaders, so managers, need all that, but they also need to understand psychosocial risk, performance management in the workplace mental health context and they need to understand the legislation. They also need to understand – are you familiar with the term 'reasonable adjustments'? This is part of the workplace health and safety. If someone has a mental health concern, you are obligated to make adjustments that are reasonable to help them do their job which may mean changing nature of the job, duration of the job and so on, or even the location.

Just so you know, if you're an officer of an organisation, you can be liable up to $600,000 for breaches of workplace health and safety. The corporation is liable up to $3 million, but an individual can be liable – you know – any worker can be liable up to $300,000 or five year's in jail, so it's significant. It's not trivial.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: EXECUTIVE COMMITMENT

Commitment by organisational leadership; genuine and visible support (and resourcing) for psychological health and safety in the workplace to embed and create longevity for initiatives

Example: Create organisational buy-in and awareness, key executives involved in training initiatives, executive champions etc.]

You really – you know – we're consulting in a very large organisation at present and they're sincerely trying to do things, but the feeling on the ground is they don't – they don't walk the talk. So, before we even start, we're going to have to address this. I don't know whether that perception's accurate but it's dangerous to be rolling out programs until we get more alignment. There needs to be budget obviously and I think they need to be modelling and being involved. The only place that I've seen it work is where you get the senior executives mixing with people, involved in these activities. Page 9 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: POLICIES & PRACTICES

Assessment of existing policies and practices to ensure that effective policies are maintained and deficient or ineffective policies are removed or replaced

Example: Internal review, RTW, mental health, grievance handling, PH&S skills training, recruitment, induction]

Internal review, return to work, mental health, grievance, psychological health and safety skills training, recruitment induction – I probably should have added bullying and harassment there. Are they up-to-date? Do people know how to access them? Can they implement them? That's the big one, that's the kicker. You might have policies, but can people implement them?

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: PLANNING & PRIORITISING

Initial and Ongoing

Identification and assessment of psychological risks and organisational indicators of psychological health, and HOW to improve these factors in a collaborative manner

Example: Workplace Wellbeing Index, Review of existing HR metrics, focus groups, WDP for work teams, BPRC, Psych' Risk Registers, psychological job demands etc.]

Now this is to the question, what are the main psychosocial factors? I think the first one is good leadership practices, right. The second is workplace culture and relationships. You know – is it a happy place basically? Org change is a risk factor. Workflow and systems - if they're poor, people's stress levels and their mental health indicators will go up.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: ACTIONS, STRATEGIES & SKILLS

Implementation of key initiatives at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of intervention

Primary: Changes in conditions that may contribute to psychological health problems, thus reducing the likelihood that problems may occur.

Example: Ensure person-job fit; build employee resilience; positive workplace culture; integrated approach to WMH – psychological risk assessment, policies, procedures, etc.

Secondary: Efforts to identify and address psychological health problems when they are in a relatively mild state and early stage, so that fast response will forestall more serious problems.

Example: Provide Manager Training; WHS Officer training; conflict resolution skills.

Tertiary: Efforts to reduce the distress and dysfunction associated with an identified mental disorder

Example: Coordinated and collaborative RTW; team-based initiatives; reasonable adjustments.]

You then - you implement stuff at the primary level, at the secondary level, and the tertiary level. I've spoken about that earlier.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: REVIEW & REFINEMENT

Ongoing

Evaluation of initiative outcomes and betterment of all Policies, Practices, Actions, Strategies, and Skills

Example: Measure implementation – WWI, staff survey, incident rates, EAP usage, grievances, turnover, absenteeism, worker's compensation claims etc...] Page 10 of 10

Please note: This material cannot be copied, distributed, modified or used for commercial purposes, in whole or part, without express written consent of CommuniCorp Group.

If you can't measure it you can't manage it. You know – that – how do you measure? What are some of the metrics? HR stuff's really good – absenteeism, presenteeism, grievances, WorkCover claims – anything you can, but also I would do a follow-up focus group and get the qualitative stuff as well, but you must measure it and it builds the business case for continuing. What are your key challenges? I think there's a few.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: Key Challenges

Balancing PH&S compliance vs PHW benefits

Workplace MH vs community MH approaches

Full range of MH issues vs mood disorders

Provider approach/expertise-independence in delivery

Integration of approach WHS + Exec + L&D + HR etc.]

Balancing psychological health and safety compliance with psychologically healthy workplace benefits. It's not one or the other. You need to do the compliance but don't only do compliance.

Workplace mental health is very, very different to community-based mental health. I think one of the things that we really think - we feel strongly is you need a psychological approach that understands organisations. You know - in the community you don't have to worry. If someone's got a mental health concern you don't have to worry about their performance management or confidentiality or team dynamics or workers comp. It's very different. That's why one of the reasons the outcomes are so much poorer for workplace related psychological injury.

[On screen PowerPoint slide with Text: What Needs to be Done

Juggling different worlds: mental health and the world of work

Bridging the gap in understanding between mental health professionals and the full range of workplace stakeholders.

This is consulting, training and education we do to bring these two worlds closer together]

What you need to do is somehow and maybe - you know - you need assistance with this, is to bridge the gap in understanding between mental health professionals on one side and the workplace on the other. They're two different worlds. Have you noticed that? This is not just an individual issue about individual's mental health. It's a systemic issue and we need – and you need to be thinking about it as such and pulling these psychosocial levers. There's both the carrot and the stick involved. You must do it - there compliance reasons - but you should do it because it's good for business.

You should take an integrated approach. Start with the basics. Make sure your job fits right and the psychological job demand stuff. Have zero tolerance for incivility. That leads to problems. It almost always predicts bullying and harassment. Have skills around conflict in the workplace. Address the management of performance. I'm not just talking about performance management. I'm talking about appraisals and the ongoing management and performance. Reduce workplace stress. It's hard, isn't it, but it's a key issue. That's that negative stress. Make sure your policies and procedures are in place.

Background Music Playing

Assess psychosocial risk and then prioritise. Don't try to do everything. Decide where you're going to focus and do that properly.

[Safe Work Australia (logo)]

[End of Transcript]


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Last modified on Wednesday 14 November 2018 [256|82976]