Earth 2 Mars

Jan 24 , 2024
Navigating Change Management with Psychosocial Hazards in our Workplaces

Picture this scenario: you’re diligently working at your desk when suddenly, you find yourself entangled in a web of office drama, where even the water cooler seems to gossip about your impending deadlines. You find yourself overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, taking a toll on your mental well-being.

Welcome to the world of psychosocial hazards in the workplace. A psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health). In a workplace context, hazards typically relate to factors in the design, systems, management, and/or carrying out of work ~ Alex Drane, Organisational Psychologist.

Since 2021, the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) has incorporated psychosocial hazards into its guidelines (see ISO 45003:2021). And since 2022, states across Australia have been adopting policies that require workplaces to manage psychosocial risks and implement control measures to eliminate psychosocial risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Addressing psychosocial hazards is not only important but also required by law, even for change management practices.

At one of our Space for Change sessions, Alex Drane, an Organisational Psychologist shared the 13 common examples of psychosocial hazards in the workplace to help us spot them.

Let’s dive into them:

1. Poor Change Management

Can sow uncertainty and stress during organisational shifts. For instance, inadequate communication about restructuring can leave employees feeling adrift, impacting their well-being.

2. Excessive Job Demands 

Such as unrealistic deadlines and performance pressures, can result in chronic stress and anxiety. Picture a scenario where tight project timelines become the norm, taking a toll on employees’ mental health.

3. Low Job Control 

Where an employee’s lack of autonomy, leads to frustration and increased stress. This might manifest in situations where rigid micromanagement stifles creativity and autonomy.

4. Remote or Isolated Work arrangements

Can trigger feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Imagine the isolation remote workers may feel, affecting their mental well-being due to limited social interactions.

5. Violence and Aggression in the workplace 

Can cause psychological trauma. Instances of verbal or physical aggression can significantly impact the mental health of those affected.

6. Insufficient Support during challenging times exacerbates stress and anxiety

When colleagues or supervisors fail to provide adequate support during high-pressure situations, employees may struggle emotionally.

7. Lack of Role Clarity 

When employees are unsure of their responsibilities, leads to confusion and stress. Unclear job roles can create an environment of uncertainty and frustration.

8. Poor Organisational Justice 

Stemming from inequities in decision-making, results in feelings of injustice. For example, if promotions or resource allocations lack transparency, employees may perceive unfairness, affecting their mental well-being.

9. Traumatic Events or Materials 

Prevalent in certain professions, can have lasting psychological effects. First responders or healthcare workers exposed to traumatic events may experience mental health challenges.

10. Unsuitable Physical Environment 

Contributing to stress and negativity, uncomfortable or unsafe workspaces can adversely affect mental well-being, illustrating the importance of a conducive workplace.

11. Conflict or Poor Workplace Interactions

Create a tense atmosphere. Frequent conflicts or strained relationships among coworkers adversely impact the overall work environment.

12. Bullying and Harassment, including sexual harassment

Create hostile work environments. Instances of bullying can lead to severe emotional and psychological consequences for victims, highlighting the need for a safe workplace culture.

13. Inadequate Rewards and Recognition

This can result in low morale and dissatisfaction. When employees feel their efforts go unnoticed, it can impact their mental well-being and job satisfaction.

So how can Change Management navigate these Psychosocial Hazards in the workplace?

Before we dive into the HOW, we need to understand what is considered a Psychosocial Hazard in change management.

Poor organisational change management means changes that are poorly planned, communicated, supported or managed. It is more than an unpopular change at work. Poor change management becomes a hazard when it is:

  • Severe (e.g. very poor management) 
  • Prolonged (e.g. long term) or 
  • Frequent (e.g. happens often)
– Alexander Drane

Change is an integral part of any organisation’s growth and evolution. Whether it’s a major transformation or incremental progress through agile methodologies, change often involves numerous moving parts.

As Change leaders, we bear the responsibility of designing human-centred change experiences and ensuring that psychosocial hazards are identified and addressed. 

Here are key things to consider in your change:

1. Clarity

  • Specific – About the who, what, where, how, why, when and what‘s next
  • Accountable Partnerships – Define roles and establish measures of success with co-designed definitions
  • Psychological Safety – Create an environment where people feel safe expressing their concerns

2. Opportunity

  • Remove or mitigate roadblocks that could hinder change efforts
  • Ensure people have the capacity to take on new roles or responsibilities, including subject matter experts involved

3. Capability

  • Recognise that competence is a significant motivator
  • Focus on Co-designing programs that not only impart knowledge but also support individuals in developing the skills and confidence needed for the change

4. Ease

  • Keep communication and support straightforward – Simplicity is key
  • Ensure Easy Access to updated information and a clear understanding of what’s next

5. Empathy

  • Put yourself in others’ shoes and ask, “What would good change look like if I were in their position?”
  • Seek out and consider different perspectives, especially those of individuals directly affected by the change

6. Co-Design

  • Involve employees in the change process – Co-designing change initiatives with those who will be impacted empowers workers to identify and enact workplace changes.
  • This is VITAL in mitigating psychosocial hazards

In change management, we have the opportunity (and legal requirement) to make a real and positive difference with our teams, projects and clients, by taking on the responsibility and power of designing co-created change approaches and experiences.

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