The psychosocial message may be getting through

Recent Australian insurer Allianz released survey data that revealed:

“….half of surveyed Australian employees claim they feel fatigued and burnt out”.

This report generated a recent article (paywalled) in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), which included some important comments from Dr Rebecca Michalak. Her comments are an important introduction to a week that includes SafetyAtWorkBlog’s exclusive reporting on The Psych Health & Safety Conference.

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A mental health book for leaders and HR professionals

Australian lawyer Fay Calderone has published a book called “Broken to Safe – Tackling Toxic Workplace Cultures and Burnout”. The intended readership seems to be “leaders” and Human Resource (HR) professionals. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is mentioned occasionally, but OHS professionals will find much to frustrate them about this self-published book.

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The Spiritualism of HR

“Trust us” is one of the riskiest phrases anyone can use. It may be even riskier to accept it. In workplaces, it is often the start of a relationship, but it can also be the start of betrayal. Part of the risk in starting any new job is that new employees must accept their introductions in good faith, and most introductions are handled by the Human Resources department but is that faith misplaced? Recently, one socialist journal from the United States (yes, the US has a socialist sub-culture …. for the moment), Jacobin, included an article about HR in its religion-themed edition (paywalled).

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Is HR the problem or the solution?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals often report to the Human Resources (HR) manager. This makes sense to those who create organisational and reporting structures, but it also implies that OHS is a subset of HR and that worker health and safety is a subsidiary of personnel management. OHS and HR have a tense relationship in workplaces and professionally, but modern work presents hazards and injuries that need a coordinated response.

To reach that point of cooperation, understanding, mutual respect, and the sharing of power, we need to try to understand what HR does.

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The future of OHS and Safe Work Australia

Marie Boland‘s work and reviews have been prominent features in Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) for over a decade. Last year, she took on the CEO role at Safe Work Australia, the country’s principal workplace health and safety policy body. Recently Boland spoke to the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS).

The interview/article starts with the unavoidable moral argument for the importance of workers’ lives in Australia and the social ripple effect of deaths and serious injuries. Inevitably, economic cost is mentioned:

“Our research shows that, in the absence of work-related injuries and illnesses, Australia’s economy would be $28.6 billion larger each year, and Australians would be able to access more jobs with better pay,”

page 27, OHS Professional, March 2024

Economics is always mentioned in articles about the importance of workplace health and safety but, really, who cares?

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Work (re)design needs government subsidies to succeed

Last week, SafeWork New South Wales progressed the management of psychosocial hazards at work with the release of its Designing Work to Manage Psychosocial Risks guidance. This document has been a long time coming and offers significant advice on how work and people management needs to change in order to prevent psychosocial hazards. However, its implementation is likely to generate considerable opposition and confusion, or even organisational shock, if it is not able to convince employers of increased profitability and productivity from making the change.

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Purposeful or lazy discussion of Right-To-Disconnect and Working-From-Home?

There is a curious development in the current discussion in Australia about the newly introduced Right-To-Disconnect (RTD). Many are conflating RTD with Working From Home (WFH) – two separate but slightly overlapping changes to the world of work – which is impeding valid and necessary discussion.

Working From Home largely emerged as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and used flimsy work structures to provide business continuity. The WFH arrangements would have been unlikely to have been so widespread without the federal government’s investment in the National Broadband Network and the commercial growth in mobile phone communication infrastructure. However, that same infrastructure and investment have contributed to the problem that Right-To-Disconnect is intended to address.

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