Assessment of the psychosocial workplace climate
The first step in making a workplace more psychologically healthy and safe is achieving a current and fulsome understanding of the status quo. This helps identify particular problems, strengths, and opportunities for improvement. The best way to do this is by surveying the people who work there as they are the experts on how their experience at work affects their well-being, engagement, and ability to do their jobs. It is also important to review organizational data, such as benefits utilization, turnover, etc. to identify areas of concern. We have developed surveys and other tools to help with this.
For example, we developed a free resource called Guarding Minds@Work that helps organizations evaluate and address psychosocial hazards and risks. The psychosocial factors assessed by this tool have been incorporated in the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Guarding Minds has become a preferred assessment approach in Canada as well as internationally.
Strategic planning for psychological health and safety
Once an organization or work group has identified workplace risks and opportunities, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the workplace psychological health and safety. A robust approach includes ensuring open communication; clear objectives; selection of practical, relevant actions and outcome evaluation to ensure sustainability. Failure to do so will waste time and money and may well undermine organizational trust and engagement. We collaborate with organizations and work groups to identify realistic goals; implement cost-effective, evidence informed interventions and determine their success in addressing key psychological health and safety objectives.
For example, we completed a three-year project for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to evaluate forty Canadian organizations as they implemented the National Standard. This project contributed significant knowledge to the understanding of strategies that are effective and feasible in small or large organizations. A report on this project is available at the Mental Health Commission of Canada website.
We use a method called Applied Research to address specific workplace concerns that require a customized approach. This starts with a focused assessment to understand primary issues and objectives, typically involving interviews with key personnel, reviews of existing organizational information, and/or employee surveys. We then make sure the goals our clients are trying to reach are achievable, measurable and practical. We review the relevant research to gather evidence and identify best practices. We create a customized set of actions that fits the organization’s needs, culture, and structure. Initiating a small pilot project helps show whether the approach works and lets us to make adjustments as needed. Once the organization acts, we monitor the implementation process to ensure that the actions are acceptable, cost-effective and sustainable.
For example, we created a customized resiliency program specifically for British Columbia paramedic personnel who experience chronic and acute stress due to the nature of their work. While there are many resiliency programs are on offer, many of them lack evidence, are not practical or cost-effective and, most importantly, not tailored to the needs and experiences of particular sectors. We conducted a survey and interviewed paramedics and dispatchers to gather their input on the demands of their jobs and how to sustain resilience. Based on this analysis and evidence-based practice, we created an online self-care workbook, the 5RF, to support resilient coping in Emergency Medical Services. This was then distributed throughout the organization with supporting resources to support uptake and use .