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Understanding psychosocial hazards & psychological safety
In today’s context, ensuring the wellbeing of employees is paramount. Psychosocial hazards and psychological safety are two important but distinct concepts that play a role in this endeavour. While they may sound similar, they address different aspects of the workplace experience.
Psychosocial hazards: Uncovering the threats
What are psychosocial hazards?
Psychosocial hazards encompass various elements within the work environment and job design that have the potential to cause psychological harm to employees. These hazards are primarily linked to the social and organisational aspects of work. Identifying and minimising them is essential for creating a safe and supportive work environment.
Some common examples of psychosocial hazards include severe, prolonged, or frequent occurrences of:
- Working long hours or without enough breaks
- Not enough manager/supervisor support (e.g. managers/supervisors aren’t available to help, provide unclear guidance, take a long time to make decisions or are unempathetic)
- Not enough support is provided for changes (e.g. not training employees on how to use new tools/technologies)
- Conflicting or frequently changing expectations and work standards (e.g. changing deadlines or contradictory instructions)
- Policies or procedures that are unfair, biased or applied inconsistently (e.g. favouritism when assigning ‘good’ shifts)
Impact of psychosocial hazards:
Exposure to psychosocial hazards can have severe consequences. It can lead to prolonged heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and even physical health issues. Additionally, it can negatively affect job performance and employee engagement.
Psychological safety: Fostering a culture of trust
What is Psychological Safety?
On the flip side, psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. Psychological safety is about creating an environment where employees can express themselves freely and take calculated risks, without facing negative repercussions such as ridicule, punishment, humiliation, or social isolation. It is a fundamental cornerstone of a healthy and productive work culture.
Examples of psychological safety include:
- Open communication: employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions, even when not everyone agrees
- Admitting mistakes: employees are not afraid to own up to their errors
- Asking questions: there is a culture of curiosity and a willingness to seek clarification
- Innovation and risk-taking: employees are encouraged to explore new ideas and approaches
- Diverse perspectives: different viewpoints are valued and integrated into decision-making
Impact of psychological safety:
Psychological safety fosters a workplace culture that nurtures innovation, creativity, teamwork, and employee engagement – importantly not everyone is agreeable all the time. When employees feel safe, they are more likely to contribute their best ideas and collaborate effectively. It also leads to better decision-making and overall organisational performance.
Balancing both for workplace wellbeing
While psychosocial hazards highlight potential threats to employee wellbeing within our workplace, psychological safety champions the creation of a work culture where employees can thrive. Leaders must address psychosocial hazards to mitigate potential harm while simultaneously cultivating psychological safety to create a positive, productive, and inclusive workplace culture.
Prioritising both psychosocial hazard identification and mitigation, and psychological safety can lead to a more engaged, healthier, and more successful workforce. It’s an investment that not only benefits employees but also has a high return on investment for the organisation.
Take the next step by reaching out to Insync’s team of experts to discuss our custom measurement tools. With a deep understanding of workplace wellbeing, our professionals are here to guide you on the journey toward a healthier, more engaged workforce.
Dr. Erika Szerda
Erika is passionate about helping organisations improve their performance and effectiveness by understanding the drivers of employee experience.
Erika has a Doctorate in Organisation and Industrial Psychology (Uni Melb) and is a registered psychologist. She is an expert in both quantitative and qualitative evidence-based methodologies. She combines these with vast consulting and leadership experience to provide insights and value to our clients.
Erika’s specialities include employee engagement/experience, alignment strategies, retention strategies, leadership, and team effectiveness.