Many of us would agree that our workdays are already full enough with deadlines, pressures and demands. Who really wants to take time to talk to researchers? Moreover, what organization really wants to develop or share confidential data that may actually make them look less than ideal? But without research into how organizations address workplace mental health effectively, we would all be "reinventing the wheel" by developing and trying out unproven strategies.
While many workplaces are consistent in doing their annual employee engagement surveys, a large number resist the notion of conducting research that takes them further into what workplace mental health expert Dr. Martin Shain calls the "dark corners" of their organizations. "This is analysis into how their workplaces are measuring up in terms of psychosocial factors such as leadership, civility and respect and other factors that can help an organization actually identify concerns and develop implementation strategies based on the findings," Dr. Shain said.
While many organizations can see the benefits of data collected by assessing psychological health and safety through free resources such as Guarding Minds @ Work, the investment in terms of employee time and effort can be a challenge.
Dr. Shain is one of the researchers who conceived and developed Guarding Minds @ Work. He, along with workplace mental health researchers Dr. Joti Samra, Dr. Merv Gilbert, and Dr. Dan Bilsker, have helped many organizations begin to take action, but many more have yet to make it a priority.
Some organizations are not comfortable assessing how their workplace is measuring up, said Dr. Samra. "We hear they may be worried about confidentiality for results related to their organization’s performance, so may just choose not to do it."
According to Dr. Bilsker, other organizations push back due to competing priorities including financial challenges. "What many of them don’t realize is that it’s costing them more to do nothing than it would to address the issues contributing to absenteeism, presenteeism and long term disability," he said.
Dr. Gilbert added, "Sometimes leaders’ lack awareness of circumstances within their organizations that may be negatively impacting psychological health and well-being."
When employers actually hunker down to do the assessments, such as that offered through Guarding Minds @ Work, Dr. Shain has found that they’re surprised to learn just how much they already have in place. "Once they get into those dark corners they’re able to identify some areas for improvement. But they also identify their existing accomplishments and this should be celebrated," he said.
We salute those organizations that have courageously supported research in their organizations, analyzed their results and agreed to share them for the benefit of all workplaces. We also salute the many researchers who continue to do the challenging work of research within dynamic, evolving and pressured workplaces. Together they are all helping to advance workplace mental health.
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