How to prevent psychological claims in the workplace
Psychological injuries as a result of workplace stress have become an increasing concern for workers, businesses and the general community.
Psychological claims account for 95% of mental disorder claims in the workplace over the past 10 years. These claims impact businesses and employees financially and also have a significant impact on staff morale, productivity and socially.
According to Professor Samuel Harvey, Black Dog Institute, the senior people in an organisation have a major role in setting the priorities for an organisation and for the setting the culture as to where employee mental health sits in the hierarchy of concerns.
Psychological claims are often caused by the following factors;
- Poorly managed work places
- Traumatic events
- Occupational uncertainty
- Lack of value and respect in the workplace
- Lack of organisational justice
- Workplace violence
- Bullying or harassment
- Excessive or prolonged work pressures
The impact of psychological claims include;
- Excessive unplanned absences
- High staff turnover
- Poor quality of work
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased workplace conflict
- Increased premiums
- Low staff morale
Assessing workplace risk is a key factor in injury prevention. Risk factors include;
- Excessive workplace demands
- Workers having limited control over their roles (limited decision making power)
- Limited support
- Poor workplace relationships
- Confusion regarding roles and responsibility
- Poor change management
- Poor recognition and reward
- Poor organisational justice
It is one thing to identify workplace risk factors and put in place policies and procedures that can be utilised when workplace psychological incidents occur. However, it is another thing to actually understand and policies and procedures and effectively implement them.
One of the major issues that is often raised by individuals affected by psychological workplace injury is the fact the policies and procedures that are in place are not often adhered to by the organisation and appear to be generic policies often designed to simply tick the boxes of management to ensure they have a policy in place.
So as an employer what can you do to prevent psychological injuries in the workplace and ensure that psychological issues that do occur are quickly addressed and resolved? The key recommendation would be to listen, really listen.
The key issue that most employees have with their employers when they have raised a psychological incident at work is that no one listened to them or cared. One of the most important factors in reducing psychological claims is the company’s ability to listen to workers concerns.
Often there is a great deal of early intervention and concern after a workplace occurs, incident be it physical or psychological occurs however in the following weeks the contact and concern dissipates and the worker is left feeling helpless, alone and often not believed.
Once a worker is feeling isolated they often become angry, frustrated and follow a pattern similar to that of grief. Sometimes workers begin to exhibit an increase in symptoms following a workplace claim and may develop new symptoms, due to the stress and uncertainty they find themselves in.
A large proportion of workers with physical claims often develop psychological symptoms as a result of poor claims management and long duration of a claim. Most workers with physical claims will note some psychological symptoms within six months of injury. This is often due to experiencing long term pain, being given the ‘run around’ and feeling that they are not being heard.
If an employer can genuinely demonstrate concern and assist the worker in their process of healing they can significantly decrease their claim duration and overall costs as well as improve the social impact that workplace claims have on a business.
With issues that are more long term such as bullying and harassment, workers often voice that when the discussed their concerns with management or human resources they were not listened to.
Workers often advise that senior staff are more focused on ensuring the company is not liable as opposed to dealing with the issue at hand and addressing how they can help.
If an employee advises that they are experiencing an issue with a work college or supervisor, that they having issues with a person that they work with, that they are over worked, that they do not have adequate resources or that something is effecting them at home which is impacting them at work, STOP and listen and take action to address these issues.
Suggesting the availability of EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) or offering time to take a mental health day in lieu of a sick day can have a tremendous effect on someone’s overall well-being at work.
Educating other staff about psychological and mental health matters is imperative to any successful workplace. If all staff understand the impact that their words and behavior have on others the workplace can become a significantly better place.
It must be noted that some psychological claims and mental health issues cannot be avoided. However, many can with good people management and genuine support from organisations.