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Psychologically healthy workplaces

Psychologically healthy workplaces

Psychologically healthy workplaces

There is a growing trend that the workplace needs to be a psychologically healthy place to work. The trend is not new. It started about 30 years ago, but has taken a long time for organisations to pick up on the benefits. Even now, most organisations see their obligation to their employees as little more than rudimentary safety and preventing harm.

The benefits of psychologically healthy workplaces

Organisations that have picked up on the benefits of having a psychologically healthy workplace, put themselves in the best position to be successful and prosperous. Some public sector organisations appreciate that a psychologically healthy workplace results in the taxpayers’ pound going much further and services provided being much more enthusiastic, helpful and effective. Turning the workplace into a psychologically healthy place to work cuts costs, increases productivity and opens the door to innovation and high performance

There is, also, a wider benefit to society. Psychologically well organisations are less of a burden on the insurance and healthcare systems as they produce fewer numbers seeking healthcare assistance from both the public and private sectors.

Psychologically healthy organisations produce greater success for businesses, with the added societal advantage of contributing more to the wealth of the country, in a range of ways – more tax on profits per employee, and more innovation being two of them.

With such clear benefits, why don’t more organisations actively seek to make their workplace psychologically healthy?

The answer probably lies in the current obsession to adopt only quick fix solutions to complex issues, combined with a traditional view of management as a being in charge of a workforce that is expected to do what it’s told, and that any problems arising from that is the fault of the employee.

Sadly, such an approach is stifling the talent, imagination and energy that’s trapped inside the workforce.

Sad, too, is the blindness of some organisations to the reality that they are absorbing huge costs of ill health. They are, unfortunately, incubating problems further down the line for Governments and future generations of taxpayers, with the lengthening of working life adding to the increase in chronic illness by contributing work related ill health. The problems over pensions are making some people work for longer years than they had hoped, at risk of poor health. Inevitably they will be calling on the public services for care and support as they grow older. There will be fewer taxpayers working the pay the bill adding further implications for the economy.

It’s time to change; it’s time to follow the trend of making the workplace a psychologically healthy place to work.

What is a psychologically healthy workplace?

Over the past decade or so the evidence has been accumulating that the right working environment, combined with the right job, right management and leadership, all within the right culture, have the effect of enabling individuals in the workplace to thrive. In psychological terms, the workplace, established along the lines that will be described, can produce positive affect in the individual. This means it can produce pleasurable and positive experiences that exhibit in individuals’ joy, interest, alertness, energy, effective performance, liveliness, concentration, adventurousness, enthusiasm, dynamism and other positive sensations.

These personal sensations can be aligned to individual behaviour, such as engagement, smiling, welcoming, nurturing, and mutual support, which, in turn, can impact on the organisation in terms of improved productivity, low sickness absence, greater flexibility, and other attributes of corporate resilience and success.

This author has worked in this field from the perspective of establishing how to change organisations and people to achieve peak performance through improvements in the psychological wellbeing of the workforce. For him the key questions are around how to apply the psychology into practice, and how to get the messages across by providing feasible and valid actions to take.

There are key themes that have emerged from research over the past decade and more.

a) The cultural environment can provoke positive emotions and affect

b) The influence of leaders and managers, especially their approach, style, behaviour and attitudes, can provoke positive emotions and affect

c) The individuals with positive emotions and affect produce positive attitudes towards work and the organisation, that, in turn, lead to peak performance in teams and in organisations as a whole.

In essence, therefore, a psychologically healthy workplace is one that facilitates, provokes, and cajoles individuals to feel the most positive they have ever felt about their work and the organisation that employs them.

How to build a psychologically healthy workplace

It is often argued that one size doesn’t fit all. This argument isn’t helpful when seeking to assist people change their organisation for the better. Clearly, however, the detail and minutiae of each organisation is different because people are different, and so the final application of ideas for improvement have to be moulded to the personalities, purpose, structures and situation of the specific organisation.

However, the overall approach to building a psychologically healthy workplace can be the same for every organisation. This is achieved by developing and applying a framework that has universal utility.

In the framework that follows, emphasis is placed on the primary elements to put in place. Other elements, not necessarily described, flow from the primary elements. In other words, the primary elements provoke the secondary elements that lead to positive thinking and attitudes about work and the organisation. For example, little is discussed about hope. Hope is part of our psychological capital, and is strengthened by individual understanding of the vision for the organisation, and the place the individual has within that vision. In the framework, only vision is discussed, but, as will be seen, vision has several secondary elements that influence positive thinking and attitudes about the workplace.

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