Three actions for designing mentally safe work

Last updated: 10 January 2022

Dr Sarah Cotton, organisational psychologist and co-founder of consultancy Transitioning Well, says “working on mental health can often fall to the bottom of the to-do list, not because business owners don’t care, but because they don’t have the time or don't know where to start.”

Start the new year with employee wellbeing as a key priority by taking these three easy actions to make your work environment productive and mentally safe.

Two people discussing work in office

It starts with good work design

Good work design creates healthy and safe work where hazards and risks are removed or minimised. This ensures better employee performance, job satisfaction, and productivity. Most importantly,  good work design minimises the risk of psychological injury. On the other hand, ‘poor work design’ like excessive demands, lack of support, low recognition, or unfair work practices can have long lasting and harmful impacts on everyone.

To implement good work design in your workplace: 

  1. Consider - Consider what is involved in performing each work task, including who is responsible, who needs to be involved and how complex the task is. 
  2. Consult - Collaborate with staff about how the work could best be completed
  3. Identify - Name any workplace hazards that need to be addressed.
  4. Review - Evaluate work design regularly and collectively. This ensures work design can evolve with your business and employees’ needs.

Ensure role clarity

Its important employees have a clear understanding of what they should be doing. When there are different views between an employees’ understanding of their role and a leader’s expectations, both can feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or experience stress.
Creating role clarity goes beyond a written job description. It’s about inducting every employee with clear expectations around: their role and requirements; responsibilities and outcomes they must achieve; how their role fits into the business’ overarching outcomes and objectives; and who their reporting lines are to.  

By having clear role descriptions that are developed with the employee in mind, and reviewed regularly, businesses can significantly reduce role confusion, and improve collaboration, productivity, and staff retention. Role clarity ensures everyone at work knows what is expected of them and why. This helps workers feel productive motivated and engaged. 

Regularly monitor workloads

Monitoring workloads is an essential part of good work design. Encourage your leaders to check in regularly with employees, help staff develop workplans with clear tasks, timeframes, and outputs so that employee workloads are manageable, ensuring they align with expectations and capacities. 

Team discussions can also be used to explore current workloads and address any issues people may be experiencing that could impact their wellbeing or performance. Through regular and open conversations with employees, it becomes easier to monitor capabilities and understand any potential hazards or challenges impacting wellbeing or performance.

Where to start?

Begin the year right and create a more open and productive workplace by implementing these simple actions.

Need some help making the changes? Eligible NSW businesses can access free one-on-one workplace mental health coaching. The coaches are here to help you make changes in your workplace and can give you specific advice that suits the way your business works.

Book a time now to build a more mentally healthy workplace.


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