Psychological health and safety policy recommendations

This framework provides policy recommendations for potential impacts on psychological health and safety. It covers policy, planning, implementation, evaluation and review.

A group of executives, labour leaders, health and safety professionals, government agency representatives and experts in law and policy came together to look at the implications of Dr. Martin Shain's paper entitled Tracking the Perfect Legal Storm: Converging systems create mounting pressure to create the psychologically safe workplace. The group was tasked with considering what employers need to know and/or access to provide a psychologically safe workplace in today's economic environment.

The following adaptation takes the five elements of a standard management approach (policy, planning, implementation, evaluation and review) and applies it against different employment life cycle stages.

Use this to help guide your own policy planning and review.

In addition, the On the agenda creating change workshop series provides you with a format and materials to facilitate a policy planning session with your decision makers. Each of the sessions in the series covers one of the psychosocial factors named in the National standard.

Recruiting and hiring

The hiring procedure is the first impression of your organization and its leadership – what it's like to work with you, how your organization values its employees, and the workplace culture a new recruit can expect.

Policy and commitment

  • Articulate the values of organization and how they will be upheld or measured
  • Define psychological health and safety for new recruits
  • Define psychologically safe leadership for new recruits
  • State that no negligent, reckless or intentional injury to employee mental health is tolerated or condoned
  • Communicate consequences for violations

Planning

  • In the hiring process, consider the psychological demands of the role being hired for, as well as the required emotional/social skills
  • Consider leadership skills in selection and promotion of those whose roles involve supervision or support of employees
  • Ensure the hiring process includes consideration of psychological safety for interviewees

Implementation

  • Discuss accommodation and organizational supports as well as the process to obtain assistance in the workplace
  • Define cultural and social expectations or norms within your workplace
  • Increase psychological comfort by considering recruiting options such as:
    • Sharing the interview process in advance
    • Providing written questions at the time of interview
    • Offering a choice of sequential versus panel interviews

Evaluation and correction actions

  • 3 to 6 month review of job-fit to assess the effectiveness of recruiting and hiring practices
  • Measure satisfaction and engagement as well as performance
  • Consider a short survey asking about the recruiting and hiring process to seek input for improvement
  • If necessary provide relevant training and support
  • If changes are needed review again in another 3-6 months as necessary
  • Survey recent hires about their experience of the hiring process and use as part of continual improvement.

Review

  • Annual Review of recruiting and hiring practices overall and analysis of the outcomes

Orientation and training

Integrating psychological health and safety principles into all orientation and training protocols, especially for leaders, supports continual improvement.

Policy and commitment

  • Require that the organization’s values be embedded in both orientation and all training approaches
  • Ensure that the principles of psychological health and safety, including psychologically safe leadership, are embedded in training, policies, strategies, changes, and processes

Planning

  • Consider how all orientation and training processes (or the absence of) may impact psychological health and safety
  • Ensure that psychologically safe leadership strategies are embedded in training for both potential and existing leaders

Implementation

  • Develop an orientation program that takes into account psychological safety on the job, the culture, rates of change within the organization, application of organizational values, and how to access support or accommodation
  • Set up a leadership development process that includes awareness of mental health and mental illness, development of interpersonal competence, access to just-in-time resources, psychologically safe leadership strategies, and coaching/mentoring
  • Set up a shorter orientation process for job changes within the organization

Evaluation and correction actions

  • Require all training and orientation to be assessed for impact on behavior of the trainee and others, as well as outcomes
  • Ask what challenges there were in new job placement to learn how to improve orientation and training approaches
  • Ask about training requirements and training refreshers to understand the needs
  • Consider the use of Psychologically safe leader assessment for continual improvement

Review

  • Do scheduled reviews of organization-wide, department, and job-specific orientation and training approaches and compare to other measures of psychological safety and engagement
  • Review the impact that individual leaders have on the psychological health and safety of their direct reports

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

It’s important to evaluate both individual employees and management strategies to ensure the optimization of productivity. 

Policy and commitment

  • Require senior leaders and those responsible for governance to "walk the talk" of organizational values
  • Ensure that all leaders express their understanding and commitment to psychologically safe leadership
  • Support psychologically safe leadership through policies and processes that recognize and reward success

Planning

  • Develop a system that supports psychological safety in the approach to management, evaluation, discipline and promotion
  • Engage leaders in developing solutions that allow them to balance psychologically safe leadership with meeting organizational objectives

Implementation

  • Ensure those in leadership positions are competent to manage in a psychologically safe way or develop this skill
  • Create a Performance management system that rules out health problems before beginning discipline
  • Engage employees in developing solutions that allow them to accomplish the tasks assigned
  • Help supervisors and managers to Identifying employee issues for leaders promptly
  • Have leaders embed solution-focused approaches in Employee concerns

Evaluation and correction actions

  • Take regular account of productivity by measuring outcomes rather than outputs (i.e., measure results, the extent to which the work gets done, rather than effort, such as working longer hours)
  • Consider external influences on performance such as, economic pressures, family or health issues, community disasters, as well as leadership approaches, employee conflict, and organizational pressures

Review

  • Consider the impact of the various management strategies and whether they result in desired outcomes
  • Consider pilot projects to test out alternative approaches

Intervention and crisis response

This is a critical time to ensure psychologically safe approaches and the availability of supports for all concerned. 

Policy and commitment

  • Require clear standards of response for each job role in the event of crisis

Planning

  • Ensure that crisis response programs include aspects related to those with mental health concerns as well as considering the psychological impact of a crisis on all employees 

Implementation

  • Develop programs for proactive crisis prevention
  • Develop intervention programs to assist troubled employees
  • Employee assistance programs (EAP) must be relevant to your organization

Evaluation and correction actions

  • Assess efficacy of programs and relevance to need

Review

  • Review all programs, look for synergies, and consider gaps

Accommodation and return to work

Although every situation must be treated as unique, following best practices that align with human rights legislation will support success.

Policy and commitment

  • Ensure leaders are physically present and communicate effectively during accommodation and return to work
  • Ensure that leaders have the necessary skills and resources to support the success of employees being accommodated or returning to work
  • Consider use of the tool: Supporting employee success

Planning

  • Define accommodation opportunities that address issues related to communication, feedback, directions, relationships, triggers and stressors in the workplace as well as task-oriented approaches
  • Consider the impact on others during accommodation and return to work planning
  • Proactively remove or reduce barriers to work-related psychological safety and support

Implementation

  • Create a return to work process that includes consideration of psychological impacts, even for physical injuries or illness
  • Consider refresher or new training for anyone who has been away for 2 months or more, or during a time of change in processes or procedures
  • Develop an accommodation approach that engages the employee fully in finding solutions that allows them to be successful at their job
  • Support supervisors in understanding and sustaining all aspects of a successful return to work including changes in communication and feedback

Evaluation and correction action

  • Have regular follow up for at least the first 6 months of a return to work
  • Have at least annual follow up for accommodation to ensure it is still the most effective solution
  • Make sure that needs are being met

Review

  • Review annually against changes in human rights or disability legislation changes and for effectiveness from the perspective of employee and supervisor
  • Make changes as needed

Redeployment and termination

Consider the impact on all stakeholders including managers, human resources, union reps and workers.

Policy and commitment

  • Mandate leaders be physically present and communicate effectively, in a psychologically safe manner, during times of layoff or redeployment
  • Review: Termination and layoff planning

Planning

  • Explore community resources, organizational or benefit provider resources and external providers for approaches and supports available to those who are losing their jobs
  • Consider the psychological impact on "survivors" as well as those who must facilitate downsizing, layoffs or redeployments
  • In times of significant change consider the psychological impact of job insecurity, lack of role clarity, competition or collaboration with newcomers/replacements, and changing or unclear expectations/values

Implementation

  • Provide targeted training programs for those managing organizational change and those who are involved with the termination process
  • Ensure availability of resources to support the employee in dealing with the emotional fallout and subsequent job search
  • Consider the needs of those who may have mental health issues at the time of termination and the psychological safety of those who are terminating

Evaluation and correction action

  • Solicit feedback from both those who are let go (exit interviews) and those left behind about the perception of the company and leadership response to layoff or redeployment

Review

  • Prepare for possible future situations by having plans in place or consider next steps if the event has already occurred

Organizational structure

Policy and commitment

  • Consider the potential psychological impact from governance, new developments and existing organizational structures
  • Require integration of psychological safety in existing and future programs

Planning

  • Collect data that will help guide the development or evolution of the organizational structure including focus on psychological impact
  • Analyze data and involve stakeholders in developing alternative approaches
  • Consider the psychological impact of communication and feedback loops, job security, role clarity, levels of competition and collaboration, clarity of expectations, values and policies

Implementation

  • Ensure psychological safety for all positions including those that utilize non-standard approaches such as telecommuting, working alone and other flexible work arrangements

Evaluation and correction action

  • Audit programs to ensure that psychological factors are measured and addressed at regular intervals

Review

  • Review results using continuous improvement framework

Job design

Policy and commitment

  • Organizational policy should include a process to assess healthy and safe job design (e.g., job risk assessment and cognitive demands analysis)

Planning

  • Plan/review jobs to ensure that psychological demands are assessed and psychological safety is addressed

Implementation

  • Job design for those in supervisory or management positions includes adequate time to provide a psychologically safe work environment

Evaluation and correction action

  • Seek feedback from those in the jobs to assess if the design is psychologically safe and clearly defined
  • Make adjustments as necessary

Review

  • Review job design when new jobs are developed or there are significant changes to jobs