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.
That suicide is related to workplace mental health pressures and illnesses is undisputed, but the more independent analysis on the topic, the more complex the causes become. Sometimes, suicide can be a conscious decision, still due to socioeconomic factors but factors that are not necessarily diagnosed or treated with mental health conditions.
[This article discusses suicide risks]
This reality complicates, and should complicate, strategies for the prevention of suicide. Recently, Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) submitted its pre-budget wishlist to the government. This submission included action on suicide and mental health but in traditional ways.
Another article reporting on Dr William Fleming’s workplace wellness research appeared recently in the New York Times, reproduced in some Australian newspapers like The Age (not available online). Newspapers are entitled to edit other newspaper’s articles for many reasons. Most tweaks are legitimate, but, in this case, The Age dropped an entire paragraph, which does not reflect the balance of the full NYTimes article.
The first use of safewash to describe presenting occupational health and safety (OHS) information in a diffused truth was in the 2016 research paper by Sharron O’Neill, Jack Flanagan and Kevin Clarke, called “Safewash! Risk attenuation and the (Mis)reporting of corporate safety performance to investors” (abstract/summary available). It has turned up elsewhere since.
Dr William Fleming’s open-access article called Employee well‐being outcomes from individual‐level “Mental Health Interventions: Cross‐sectional Evidence from the United Kingdom” is receiving a lot of online and mainstream media attention, and rightly so. It is a robust piece of research from a sample of over 46,000 workers in 233 organisations. The article compares:
“…participants and nonparticipants in a range of common individual‐level well‐being interventions, including resilience training, mindfulness and well‐being apps. Across multiple subjective well‐being indicators, participants appear no better off.”
Yesterday, one of my LinkedIn posts reached over 20,000 impressions. The post concerned new research that questioned the effectiveness of corporate wellbeing programs. Some responses were febrile even though they had not read the open-access article! The points raised in the research were not new. Some have been covered in this blog previously, but the New York Times raised the question of the viability of corporate wellness programs in 2020.
There are so few occupational health and safety (OHS) books that it is often necessary to look outside the OHS field for answers in the OHS field. One example of such a book is “Work Psychology – The Basics” by Dr Laura Dean and Fran Cousans. The authors could have increased their readership and scope if they had also considered psychosocial issues more closely, but this book is about psychology. Even so, some useful perspectives are offered.