Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Navigating Workplace Psychosocial Hazards

The biggest mistake most workplaces are making.

Key points

  • Providing a mentally healthy work environment is now an Australian legal requirement for businesses.
  • A new survey reveals a gap between the support Australian business leaders claim to provide and the hazards team members say they face at work.
  • Team members who report higher levels of psychological safety are less likely to say they face workplace psychosocial hazards.
Source: RichVintage/iStock

With the need for Australian workplaces to now identify and do “everything reasonably practical” to deal with psychosocial risks, the question many organizations are asking is: “Where do we begin?” New research released today by The Leaders Lab, the Australian HR Institute, Growth Faculty, NeuroPower Group, and Pioneera has found that while providing a mentally healthy environment is now a legal requirement, using this as an opportunity to build a culture of care should be the business imperative.

“Workplaces that were caring and safe reported higher levels of individual, team, and organizational performance,” explained Dr. Paige Williams, co-founder of The Leaders Lab.

“Unfortunately, while many workplaces are training leaders to ensure they are compliant when it comes to managing psychosocial risks, fewer workplaces are leveraging changes in health and safety standards as an opportunity to build on their leaders’ strengths and improve their cultures of care,” she said. “And yet, when leaders often express care for their team members, we have found that levels of well-being, job satisfaction, performance, and safety are all more likely to be higher. The truth is when it comes to workplace safety, care beats compliance.”

The research surveyed 1,009 randomly selected workers representative of the Australian workforce during September, and found that when it comes to addressing the psychosocial hazards that arise in every job:

Most workplaces are unaware of the silent hazard they need to address—the employee experience gap.

The good news is most leaders are trying to provide the support their team members need to stay safe. The bad news is that there is a significant employee experience gap between the support leaders say they are providing and the hazards team members say they are facing. To close the gap, leaders need to more explicitly communicate about their efforts to care for team members and regularly check in with team members about the impact of these actions and the hazards they may still be experiencing.

How are you identifying and doing “everything reasonably practical” to help your leaders close any experience gaps and minimize the risks of psychosocial hazards in your workplace?

Leaders who build psychological safety for their team members are more likely to report fewer hazards.

Team members who reported higher levels of psychological safety—that is, they felt safe to bring up problems and talk about mistakes—were significantly less likely to report that they often faced any of the workplace psychosocial hazards. Given researchers have found that psychological safety is an important factor in team success, it is understandable that this may be a pathway to lower the frequency of workers experiencing the hazards.

How are you helping your leaders build psychological safety for your team members?

Creating a caring and safe workplace requires a systems approach that leverages workplace Rules (Us Level), leader and team Routines (We Level), and leader Role Modeling (Me Level).

With 59.6% of the leaders surveyed reporting that they felt burned out, leaders need tiny actions that can be integrated into their existing responsibilities when it comes to reducing psychosocial hazards. The data found that by integrating CARE (Compassion, Appreciation, Responsibility, Emotional wisdom) behaviors often into their existing Routines (their team processes), Rituals (their team practices), Rules (workplace policies), and Role Modeling (their own behaviors), leaders can improve levels of safety and performance significantly for themselves and their teams.

How are your leaders leveraging existing routines, rituals, rules, and role modeling opportunities to often express CARE for their team members?

More from Michelle McQuaid Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today