A psychologically safe workplace is one that does not allow significant harm to employees’ mental health, said Dr. Martin Shain, director and founder of the Neighbour@Work Centre, speaking at an Employee Assistance Program Association of Toronto seminar yesterday.

With increasing legally enforceable standards for the protection of employees’ mental health at work, employers need to assess and address the risk to mental health in the workplace, develop policies and programs that will ensure a psychologically safe workplace and then embed them into their accountability structures.

These policies and programs should not only consider how employees are treated by supervisors but also, for instance, how employees are treated by other employees and how employees are treated while on or returning from disability leave.

Employers and employees need to incorporate three imperatives into their workplace cultures: awareness (know who is influenced by your words and actions), understanding (understand the needs, motives and points of views of others) and carefulness (act on this awareness and understanding by being careful of others in your circle of influence).

These three imperatives foster the “neighbour at work” principle, defined as basically everyone in your workplace community that you affect through your actions and words and interact with on a regular basis.

Failure to consider employees’ mental health could lead to significant legal and financial consequences. In 2003, the cost of a mental injury case was about $15,000. Recently, there have been cases up to $950,000.

Without the “neighbour at work” principle, said Shain, a psychologically safe workplace is impossible to achieve.

To comment on this story email brooke.smith@rci.rogers.com.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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