by | Mar 1, 2024

When the Inspector Calls

Mental health, IS045003 and psychological safety at work

Mental health, ISO 45003 and psychological safety at work

In recent years, mental health has seen a significant decline globally, with rising rates of anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders. In the WHO Mental Health Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide during the first year of the pandemic. Additionally, in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that 1.8 million workers experienced work-related ill health in 2022/23, with approximately half of these cases attributed to stress, depression, or anxiety. 

The time to consider what role our jobs have in supporting us mentally is now. As our society evolves, so do the demands of our jobs. Today, there’s a growing recognition that the wellbeing of employees extends beyond physical safety to encompass their mental health and the stats show us that we need to urgently prioritise psychological safety measures in the workplace. So, join us for an episode of Re Engaged @ Work with psychological health and safety expert, Peter Kelly.  

Understanding the impact of work-related stress 

The magnitude of work-related stress and its impact on individuals cannot be overstated. It’s not just a matter of numbers; behind each statistic lies a human story—a story of struggle, resilience and the search for a better state of being. As we confront this reality, it becomes increasingly evident that creating a supportive work environment is essential for employee development as well as organisational development. 

Organisations that prioritise the mental health of their employees not only cultivate a happier and healthier workforce but also enhance productivity, innovation and overall business performance. This paradigm shift demands a holistic approach—one that addresses the root causes of stress, contributing to a culture of openness, empathy and proactive support. 

Evolving work dynamics and psychological effects 

Over the past 20 years, societal upheavals such as pandemics and financial crises, have reshaped the way we work and interact. These transformative events have not only altered the physical aspects of our workplaces but have also triggered profound psychological effects. As technology advances and global markets fluctuate, the nature of work becomes increasingly complex, leading to new challenges in maintaining employee wellbeing. Peter’s insights shed light on this dynamic interplay between external forces and internal psychosocial dynamics, emphasising the need for adaptable and resilient work cultures. 

ISO 45003 is the key to great workplace wellbeing 

The introduction of ISO 45003 represents a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to prioritise mental health in the workplace. Unlike its predecessors, such as OHSAS 18001, ISO 45003 adopts a comprehensive approach that goes beyond mere compliance to proactive risk management and well-being promotion. By providing a framework for identifying, assessing and mitigating psychosocial risks, this standard empowers organisations to create safer, healthier and more supportive work environments. Here’s a brief overview comparing the standards mentioned above:  

  • ISO 45003 focuses on psychological health and safety and aligns with the modern Annex SL structure, facilitating integration with other ISO standards like ISO 45001.
  • OHSAS 18001 broadly addresses occupational health and safety but has been replaced by ISO 45001, which provides a more comprehensive approach to managing health and safety risks, including psychosocial hazards. 

Building authentic workplace wellbeing 

At the heart of any effective wellbeing initiative lies authenticity. It’s not enough for organisations to pay lip service to mental health; genuine care requires a deeper commitment to understanding and addressing the unique needs of employees. Peter envisages a future where wellbeing is not just a goal, but a lived reality. Organisations can encompass this ethos by planning and implementing targeted workplace wellbeing initiatives that help to create psychologically safe work environments.  

Legal responsibilities 

As the episode draws to a close, the conversation naturally turns to the legal and ethical responsibilities that come with prioritising mental health in the workplace. While ISO standards provide valuable guidance, ultimately, it’s up to organisations to translate these principles into tangible actions that benefit their employees.  

By working together and embracing a shared vision of a healthier, happier future, we can create workplaces where every individual feels respected, supported and empowered to thrive. 

Tune in wherever you get your podcasts: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and many more… 

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