The well-being and psychosocial “wild west”

With the new Psych Health and Safety regs/codes of practice, it seems many corporate ‘wellness’ providers are now branching out into the now topical, psychosocial risk management domain.  As someone who supports several national/multinational organisations, I am seeing a big gap between the academic research, provider capability, corporate understanding, and real-world activity.  I am also seeing some very questionable tools/approaches/programs and activities emerging in the race to sate the increasing corporate psych risk appetite.

[Guest post by David Burroughs]

While the flavour of the month, psychosocial risk management, is not new, it’s been around globally for decades!  Unfortunately, many workplaces and workplace wellness providers just haven’t been focussed on psychosocial harm prevention or evidence-informed practice (let alone evidence-based).

For those new to this space, keep in mind that psychosocial hazard identification is NOT the same as assessing psychosocial risk. Psychosocial hazard identification is easy, risk assessment and mitigation more complex. A 2-day course or a quick read of the latest regulations doesn’t equip someone to be an ‘expert’ in this domain, irrespective of what their LinkedIn profile says.

Traditional bowtie, linear risk/control type approaches often fall short when addressing the multifactorial/interactive nature of psychosocial risks. The most popular programs and approaches that have dominated workplace mental health for the last decade also fall well short. If your provider is spruiking MHFA [Mental Health First Aid], resilience training, wellbeing days, positivity, a flashy peer program, their app as THE solution to your psychosocial risk management needs, I suspect they may not be up to date in their understanding of the new/emerging regulatory landscape or workplace mental health research. In fact, you may be putting your people and your organisation at greater risk.

As a start, when acquiring psychosocial risk management tools/services, perhaps ask:

  • Whether their psychosocial assessment tools are enabling hazard identification and/or risk assessment?  Ask what research they are based on, how they work, and how they have been validated?
  • What actual training your providers have undertaken in psychosocial risk management and things like job redesign?
  • What real world experience they have in psychosocial risk assessment, risk mitigation and actual job redesign? Ask them about the outcomes they achieved and how they measured these?
  • Ask how long they have been working in the psychosocial risk management space. Hopefully it is not as new to them as it is to much of corporate Australia.

Psychosocial risk management isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ of a mentally healthy workplace, but it is critical. Let’s not cut corners on this one and get a little more savvy to the repackaging/rebadging of flawed tools and programs being resold as solutions to complex organisational issues.

This article was a LinkedIn post on March 27, 2023, and is reproduced with permission of the author, David Burroughs.

Headline was chosen by Kevin Jones

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