In April 2016 Lawyer Mai Chen stated that "Mental health in the workplace is the new frontier for health and safety".
Whilst some organisations have actively sought to address this, others have 'dipped their toes', whilst some have completely ignored it.
The Health and Safety Act that came into effect in 2016 clearly states mental-health
as an issue in an increasingly stressed-out and competitive workplaces of deadlines and performance targets.
In the year 2015-2016, WorkSafe conducted over 780 investigations, 14,500 proactive assessments of workplaces, 106 prosecutions (91% of which were successful) and 3,300 serious harm notifications.
All New Zealand employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment. It can no longer be ignored, nor can we settle for half-hearted, tick-the-box approaches.
As well as this, within my work alongside organisations and their leaders, I have a growing concern that some well-being initiatives are causing more stress and mental-health issues than good for some employees.
Some organisations have introduced mindfulness or meditation classes. Whilst the practice of mindful and meditative presence has proven health benefits, if the underlying issue of workload, workplace bullying or excessive pressures are not addressed, the initiative becomes a drop in a very turbulent ocean.
Others have introduced 'gratitude' times where staff acknowledge supportive or virtues-based actions from others. When placed within a toxic environment as a potential workplace culture cure-all, this practice becomes contrived, and potentially harmful if it ostricises people over others.
Creating a Culture of Care within an organisation requires a strategic rather than haphazard, or 'chasing the newest fad' approach. The key is to develop a comprehensive, informed approach that builds internal capability.
A more strategic approach may involve:
• An audit of current-state.
• Strategic design of a comprehensive, innovative plan that addresses audit findings.
• Training of identified internal personnel who can lead and support staff development.
• Use of external professionals as required.
The part can never be well unless the whole is well.