Section 2 - Developing a Workplace Policy
Wellbeing in the Workplace
Creating a workplace mental health and wellness program is centered on the development of a comprehensive Workplace Mental Health Policy. This policy will serve as the central anchor point from which all activities will be generated for and from.
In developing the organizations policies, it is crucial to create a knowledgeable and committed Policy Development Committee, made up of companywide representation, to ensure the policies are informed by input from all stakeholders. This process will also generate higher buy in for all sectors.
The Policy Statement is your company position on eliminating barriers to a healthy workplace. It is the statement of your organizations commitment to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of its management and employees. It should also address the need to recognize and support employee wellbeing through ensuring that managers and staff work collaboratively in eliminating of unhealthy stressors and like workplace hazards.
Goals of the Policy
Decide upon five or six straightforward goals of the Policy. What is it that the company wants to achieve by the development of the workplace mental health strategies? List these goals clearly and concisely so that there is no ambiguity in what you are working towards. As an example;
- To provide assistance to those who experience work related stress.
- To promote healthy work/ life balance
- To promote a culturally safe environment
Objectives of the Policy
Decide upon the objectives needed to reach your goals. These objectives will be your company operating principals. Clarity and detail is imperative to ensuring successful policy implementation. When necessary, include timelines and parameters. As an example;
- To develop strategies that will ensure mental health is equally valued to physical health.
- To create a working environment where employees and managers work collaboratively in identifying opportunities to increase employee wellbeing.
- To increase awareness of mental health in all management and employees.
- To alter our communications procedures to protect home/work balance by reducing blackberry/ email messaging in the evenings to a point of only in the event of emergency within 90 days unless in event of an emergency.
Benefits of Following the Policy
The workplace policy statement should include a clear understanding of the benefits which all parties will reap by adhering to the new standards. All management and staff must understand that implementing new polices is an operational and culture shift and will involve transferring of benefits accordingly. Let us examine a case scenario; let’s imagine that in the past 5 years, company X has had a practice of issuing all front office managers (5) a blackberry and has had a very high rate of after hour emails travelling to and from these managers. Although it may seem to be a common operational practice, which some may state saves company money, take a look at both the employee viewpoint of being contacted continuously at home, how this may negatively affect the employees morale, how this affects the managers home life, how this may disrupt the employees mental rest from the stresses of the workplace. Now let’s examine if over the past 2 years if any managers have left their positions due to stress? If so, are they on disability leave? What is the cost of hiring replacements? Lost productivity? Loss of employee commitment and dedication? Training expenditures? Loss of knowledge? Community contacts? Loss of community good will? Etc. When we look at the real benefits in eliminating stressors on employees, while there may or may not be an immediate costs, the benefits will invariably save money over a very short time period.
Detail the benefits associated with the implementation of the company workplace policies. Share will all employees and staff why it is crucial for everyone to play a role in the culture shift towards valuing each other’s mental health as importantly as we do physical health. Examples are;
- Staff and Management will have awareness of stress-related issues and will be able to more effectively manage their wellness.
- Earlier notification of wellbeing issues leading to improved and speedier interventions.
- Improved working environment and culture for employees to be able to share views.
- Greater knowledge and skills of managers for supporting employee needs.
- The elimination of stigma and discrimination.
Definition of Stress
It is important for the policies to define what constitutes workplace stress. The Policy Development Committee will need to define stress in their own terms such as ‘the negative and potentially harmful reaction management, staff, and/or volunteers have to excessive pressures or other types of unreasonable demand’. It is important to explain how stress is different from pressure which can be assigned to temporary workplace needs, stress occurs when too much pressure and/or too many demands come in to play. Stress can and often does lead to both mental and physical illness. The potential for this illness also raises the level of stress in the employee. It should also be understood that stressors do not end the moment one walks out of the workplace each day, as well, stress occurring outside the workplace adds to the accumulated stress load which builds up in a person and can acerbate the level of illness risk.
As an employer, it is very important to maintain openness and transparency with your staff regarding health and wellness. As such, it is very appropriate to detail the provisions of applicable health and safety regulations. Post within your policies the appropriate corresponding legislation referring to health and safety. Express your position on the employers’ duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and describe their duty to notify management of any hazards. This is where the company wants to clearly notify all management and staff that no harm, prejudice, or punishment will come to any employee or management who comes forward with mental health issues. Owners, management and employees are required to comply with all legal requirements.
Moving the Policy Forward
This section clearly indicates the steps needed to be taken by each stakeholder in moving the objectives of the workplace mental health to action. The roles of all stakeholders should be clearly specified in implementing all areas of the strategy.
Key areas where practical steps that need to be detailed that will be taken to support and drive forward the objectives towards the goals are;
- Workplace risk assessment
- Training of staff
- Stress awareness activities and training
- Communication and resources
- Management training, resources and support
- Healthy lifestyles and managing stress training
- Monitoring staff and management wellbeing
- Evaluation and corrective measures