Most of us are familiar with workplace risks, especially in relation to physical dangers in certain industries such as construction, manufacturing and the oil and gas industry. But how many of you know about psychological hazards that may appear in any workplace and can include things like exposure to harassment and bullying, high workloads, violence in the workplace and changes in the organization? Continuous exposure to these hazards are known to impact a worker’s mental and physical health and can lead them to develop negative coping skills, like an increase in alcohol and drug use, which can lead to further psychological distress.
What Exactly is a Psychological Injury?
One definition I like to use describes this as a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms that interfere with a person’s life and can significantly affect how they feel, think, behave and interact with others. And how can we talk about this subject without addressing the pressures we all feel at work? Stress is an everyday occurrence for most of us, both positive and negative. “What,” you say? “Positive stress?” Yes, it’s a thing! Eustress is what motivates us to perform and can have beneficial effects on our health and well-being—who else wrote their best university papers the night before they were due as the clock ticked away?
But it’s the negative stress, or distress, that can lead to injury. Indeed, mental injury may include diagnoses such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. It can develop after a single traumatic work-related incident or as a result of a cumulative series of traumatic events. It usually occurs within three main categories: working conditions, excessive workload and work relationships.
Why is This Important?
Well, as of June 1, 2018, Bill 30 (the act to protect the health and well-being of working Albertans) came into effect, which requires employers to take an active stance to shield their employees from workplace violence and harassment. This is a long overdue process—it’s been 43 years since Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act was updated—and reaffirms the responsibility of all of us, managers and workers alike, to apply due diligence and take responsibility to promote healthy workplaces for all.
So now, wellness champions, we have even more reason to continue our hard work in fostering inclusive and positive workplaces by supporting cultures where employees feel valued, understood and safe. And of course, you already know that happy workers translate into improved collaboration, increased productivity and reductions in sick leave and workplace incidents. May this blog serve as a little boost to help you carry on with the great work you’re doing—it’s more important than ever!