Psychosocial Code of Practice: How can employers proactively support their leaders’ responsibility?
The responsibility of adhering to the recently introduced ‘Managing the risks of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022’, from SafeWork Australia, which took effect in April this year, falls entirely on employers. Naturally, employers will turn to their top executives and leaders to ensure effective management of psychosocial hazards in the workplace and protection of their greatest asset, their employees. Undoubtedly, the expectations of our leaders continue to become more demanding and challenging, so how can employers proactively support and equip their leaders in handling this extra responsibility?
The aim of the Code of Practice is to create obligations on employers to reduce and manage workplace stress. The Code refers to aspects of work design, the work itself and the interactions between employees which can impact employee’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
According to the Code of Practice, the components of work which are most likely to contribute to stress in the workplace, include:
- High job demands/low job control
- Poor organisational change management
- Inadequate reward and recognition
- Traumatic events or material
- Remote or isolated work
The new Code is legislating what we know to be good leadership practice. That is, encouraging leaders to adopt a more holistic and compassionate approach to leadership, recognising that the wellbeing of their team members plays a significant role in the overall success and productivity of the organisation. Complying with the Code is a win for both employers and employees. For employees, who benefit from improved mental health and emotional wellbeing, and a benefit for employers, who will benefit from higher functioning and performing teams.
So, although psychosocial safety is now a legal requirement, building a psychologically safe culture of care is surely a business imperative. When employees feel psychologically safe in their work environment, they are more inclined to openly communicate about any psychosocial risks they might be facing.
The benefit of creating psychologically safe workplaces is not a new concept. The term psychological safety was first used by organisational behaviour scientist from Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson in 1999. Psychological safety is where members of a team believe that they are free to speak their minds with work-related ideas and concerns with others in the team without the fear of judgement and negative consequences. Employees are encouraged to question, discuss, and evaluate problems and issues.
For leaders, understanding and addressing psychosocial dynamics is crucial in creating a healthy and productive work environment. Some of the key principles and leadership skills that underpin the development of psychologically safe workplaces include:
While it is critical that organisations support leaders to develop and role model psychologically safe environments and behaviours in the workplace, organisations and leaders should support and motivate every team member to build their own portable psychological safety that can be carried with them. This could include things like learning to practice a growth mindset, extending compassion and awareness of self and others, asking for help, learning to set boundaries, and holding themselves and others responsible for actions.
Many organisations recognise that a focus on psychosocial safety goes beyond mere compliance with the Code of Practice; it is a strategic imperative for cultivating a positive and thriving work environment. Psychological safety fosters a culture where individuals feel comfortable sharing their concerns and are more inclined to communicate about any psychosocial risks without fear of judgment or repercussions.
Overall, embracing a psychosocial safety-centred approach is a testament to an organisation’s commitment to the wellbeing of its workforce, but is also simply good leadership practice to achieve enhanced employee engagement and productivity. In this rapidly evolving world, prioritising mental health and emotional wellbeing is a cornerstone of a successful organisation.
If you would like to talk to one of our team about how we could support your organisation build a psychologically safe work environment and support adherence to the psychosocial code of practice, then please get in touch with us at email@example.com.