Moral distress = moral injury = workplace mental ill-health = burnout.

On December 29 2023, The Guardian newspaper’s cover story was about doctors in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service experiencing high rates of “moral distress”. It is common for hospitals and health care services to consider themselves as workplaces with unique hazards rather than suffering similar occupational health and safety (OHS) challenges to all other workplaces. What makes the OHS challenge so significant in the NHS is the size of the challenge rather than its nature or cause.

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An industrial relations perspective on psychosocial hazards

The prevention of workplace psychosocial hazards will be an increasing issue of concern and debate in 2024 as more Australian jurisdictions re-emphasize the application of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to this insidious hazard.  That debate requires a broad range of voices to better understand prevention strategies and to assess existing strategies that have failed or impeded progress.  Emeritus Professor Michael Quinlan is one such voice, especially in his recent article, “Psychosocial Hazards: An Overview and Industrial Relations Perspective”.

[Note this article discusses work-related suicide]

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How to determine the usefulness of what you read

Many employers are continuing to pimp up their well-being programs and employer benefits with the intention of managing mental health pressures. This is often based on advice from multinational business advisory and consulting firms in the form of trend surveys and reports about business attitudes, fears and concerns. A recent report from Mercer was the basis for an article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR, paywalled) written by Euan Black. It is instructive to subject the article and the Mercer report to a little scrutiny to determine their usefulness.

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Billable hours are unsafe

Late last week, it was announced that prominent lawyer Michael Tooma was leaving Clyde & Co for a position with Hamilton Locke, focussing on environment, social, and governance matters. This is interesting in one way, as lawyers move firms regularly, but his comments about the social harm from law firms’ reliance on billable hours was more interesting.

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Plain speaking on mental health v nuance

Plain speaking is one of the greatest challenges of any profession. Many professionals struggle to communicate their excellent work and knowledge which has created the moves for Research-To-Practice and specialised communicators (as opposed to public relations advisers). Human Resources (HR) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) need communications specialists, or perhaps just interpreters, if a recent article on workers compensation and mental health is anything to go by.

If we are going to achieve a successful and effective change on workplace mental health, we need to start to understand each other.

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Burnout is the new Stress

Burnout will continue to be a trend for discussion papers and marketing brochures for some time to come.  A recent one, from Udemy Business is a good example of discussion without action.  If we were to replace the word “burnout” with “stress”, the paper could easily have been produced over twenty years ago.

Many of the data sources will be familiar – Gartner, Gallup, McKinsey, Deloitte.  The Gallup Research included these top five causes of burnout:

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Good book that misses important OHS perspectives

I buy at least one new book related to occupational health and safety (OHS) every week. Yes, I have a big pile of unread or, half-read books. Every now and then, one stands out, and “Resilience by Design” did just that. Initially, it was about the formatting, but then the content grabbed me. It is not a “straight” OHS book, and much of it focuses on individual interventions, but there is enough content to further the OHS discussion about psychosocial hazards and provide insight into the non-OHS perspectives of this growing area of safety management.

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