REFLECTION: I’ve just returned from the 15th Annual Health Work and Wellness Conference in Toronto. Over the years, I’ve attended five of these conferences; and it’s been interesting to watch the shift in focus over time. Initially the conversation was mostly about physical wellness – helping employees become more physically fit through increased exercise, healthier eating, and addressing risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
This year, much of the conference focused on initiatives in the area of psychological safety. This moves us firmly into the arenas of mental and emotional health. These areas are harder to measure (and tougher to talk about), but they are every bit as important to productive workplaces as an emphasis on healthy bodies.
What we’re talking about here is creating a workplace culture that is respectful and civil – one in which people are responsible not just for their contributions to profits or corporate goals, but equally accountable for the impact of their everyday behaviour on others. Metaphorical hard hats and flak vests are rarely required. Leaders don’t carelessly overload employees, burning them out in the pursuit of corporate success. Berating, browbeating and bullying are not tolerated.
ACTION: Researcher, Martin Shain, recommends organizations concentrate on three approaches to create more psychologically safe workplaces:
1. Set reasonable and clear demands. Don’t blindly delegate work and raise expectations without attending to the impact of those new directions.
2. Make it safe for employees to speak up. Develop skills throughout the organization in raising concerns, asking questions, and listening with care.
3. Be vigilant about challenging even minor acts of incivility. Create a culture of courage – one in which people stand up for themselves and defend each other in the face of disrespectful comments or actions.
How does your workplace measure up on each of these elements? How might you and your colleagues strengthen an area where your culture falls short of the ideal?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization, 1948
Or you might prefer a more succinct version from Author Unknown: “Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy.”
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Looking for more specific tactics on setting the tone for a mentally healthy culture? Check out this section of the Great West Life Resource Centre for Mental Health. You’ll find suggestions for building: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie in the workplace.
READERS WRITE: In response to a recent e-zine message on ‘Energy Issues‘ Pause reader JM writes: I work with people on low-income who lead highly emotionally stressful lives. Frequently they have developed a lifelong habit of being consumed by their barriers, and it keeps them in a chronically hopeless, lethargic state. I have often encouraged them to consider getting involved in a volunteer activity, a new hobby, or even a new habit like walking the kids to school or walking to the grocery store, just to take a break from their ‘lives’. I know that once they get involved in something else, they will begin to see hope and find the courage to move beyond their current situation. But many cannot even see that this is possible. Your quote for this week reminds me that I should keep encouraging them to think about it. Thanks!! (“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” – Norman Vincent Peale )