Reflections on the ‘Psychologically Safe Workplaces’ Match

8 March 2017

Last week, Danielle from the SPA team attended the’ Psychologically Safe Workplaces - Innovation in Prevention’ Match as part of the IIMHL Leadership Exchange. This Match was hosted by SPA Member SuperFriend in Melbourne, Victoria. Here’s what Danielle had to say on her return to the office:

“SuperFriend were fantastic hosts in terms of setting a challenging and innovative agenda, securing a great meeting space at Uni of Melbourne, and giving us out-of-towners a great opportunity to experience Melbourne’s wonderful food and culture. In attendance were representatives from Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and, of course, Australia. It was great to see friends and colleagues from organisations such as WorkSafe VIC, Neami, beyondblue and Way Ahead, just to name a few.

It was clear from discussion that we all think we know what needs to be done, we just need to work out how to do it.

Further, that this stuff is not difficult. The issues employees face might be complex but what we can do to prevent and assist is relatively easy and will reduce high turnover, burnout, trauma, absenteeism, team conflict, employer costs etc.

Below are a few of the key points I took away from the meeting. Where possible I’ve also included some links to resources and further information.

What do we know?

  • Research discussed focused on three tiers of prevention, moderate problems and interventions, severe issues. Findings indicate that most employers get involved in stages 2 and 3, so programs are focusing on prevention.
  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada has identified 13 Factors of psychological health and safety (PH&S) in the workplace. See their website for resources and videos available free of charge.
  • Teaching resilience in teams can solve so many issues before they become an issue (Canada speaker Mary Ann Baynton)
  • SuperFriend conducted ‘Work in Progress’ survey in 2015 and 2016. From this they formed indicators of a psychologically healthy workplace that you can use to develop your strategies.
  • This needs to be a whole company culture to work from top to bottom.
  • If you can’t do it all, find the things that you can do and will have the greatest impact.

What do we need to do?

  • We need general guidelines that everyone can apply to their industry and their workplace.
  • Everyone should have policies and procedures in place for dealing with psychologically safe workplaces, not just physically safe workplaces.
  • We need to get the language right. Canada is using "psychologically safe workplace" as "mentally healthy" tends to get confused with mental illness.
  • Employers are hesitant to get involved as they think they need to diagnose and treat their employees. This is not the case at all (and could be detrimental) so we need to change that mindset.
  • We need to change the culture about what “psychologically healthy” means. It is not just yoga, ping pong and daily fruit bowls provided by management, it is about human connection and care.

If you want to know more about the speakers or the work of SuperFriend, please visit their website.

Thank you again to SuperFriend and all who attending this meeting for a very thought provoking couple of days!