Building and Sustaining Psychologically Healthy Workplaces: Report from the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Committee

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In this era of increasing workplace pressures (increased competitiveness, a faster pace and labour shortages), many organizations are responding by nurturing their most important asset – their employees. They are committed to addressing employee morale, job satisfaction and retention. In other words, they are creating psychologically healthy workplaces, where workers flourish rather than flounder and companies benefit from an engaged workforce and healthier bottom line. Research shows a link between better people management and better financial performance. This has been consistently demonstrated by monitoring savings in such lagging indicators as absenteeism, disability rates and benefits utilization. More recently, there has been a burgeoning literature demonstrating the productivity, recruitment and retention benefits of such leading indicators as engagement, respect and alignment. Indeed, it is logical that those processes that promote organizational effectiveness would also enhance employee loyalty and discretionary effort (e.g. challenge, variety, autonomy, opportunity).

A psychologically healthy and resilient organization is one that has a clear purpose, is forward thinking, has an environment characterized by support, trust, and open communication, and employs people who are proactive, collaborative and care for themselves and others. They select and train their employees, at all levels, to exhibit and sustain these capacities. They develop and implement programs and policies that encourage involvement, balance, health and safety amongst all their staff. They are proactive in promoting psychological and physical wellness and have services in place to address and support employees experiencing ill-health, recognizing that relying on the public health care system is risky as it is ill-equipped and ill-informed with respect to workplace issues. They constantly evaluate their efforts and are constantly seeking best – or better – practices that are informed by good evidence.

Such seemingly utopian organizations do exist, and are noteworthy because of the successes they have achieved that involve all relevant stakeholders including management, organized labour, customers/clients and employees. This has not been accomplished without difficulty but has been achieved and sustained by sincere commitment to the comprehensive well-being of their people and organization and a hardheaded evaluation of their existing processes and needs. The bottom line is that organizations that promote and sustain employee health are more likely to be productive, sustainable and profitable. The importance of creating and sustaining psychologically healthy workplaces has been with us for some time however this issue has gained increasing prominence with the introduction of Bill 14 in British Columbia and the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

In order to celebrate such organizations, the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Committee (http://www.phwa.ca/) was formed as a standing committee of the BC Psychological Association. The mandate of the PHWC is to inform businesses and other organizations on how to create and sustain psychologically healthy workplaces, and to publicly recognize companies and agencies exemplifying psychologically healthy practices. This is done by offering the business and non-profit community information and educational opportunities and recognizing organizations with an award for excellence in the creation of psychologically healthy policies, programs and practices.

Winners of provincial or state association awards have an opportunity to participate in a competition for recognition as a leader across North America. Several of our British Columbia winners have received this honour.

Awards are given out to large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that provide programs or policies in one of the five aspects of a healthy workplace:

  • Employee Involvement
  • Employee Recognition
  • Employee Growth and Development
  • Work-Family-Life Balance
  • Health and Safety

Over the last few years presentations on the model and merits of a psychologically healthy workplace have been given to a range of organizational and professional audiences both provincially and nationally. We are currently conducting an awards program with recognition to be given to worthy organizations at an appropriate event in the Fall of 2017. If you know of British Columbia workplaces that demonstrate exemplary concern for the psychological well-being of their workforce, please encourage them to apply. If you are interested in getting more information, please contact info@psychologists.bc.ca

Merv Gilbert, PhD
Dr. Merv Gilbert is the Chair of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Committee and a member of the APA Psychologically Healthy Workplace Steering Committee.

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