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How to build a psychologically safe culture

Work can have a significant impact on our psychological wellbeing with 69% of employee’s having experienced mental ill health because of work at some point. The past 18 months has highlighted this even further with 41% of employees having experienced mental health symptoms caused or worsened by work in the last year (BITC 2021 - What if your job was Good for You Report).

Organisations have a responsibility to protect both the physical and psychosocial health of their employees. To support this a new International Standard, ISO 45003 has been released with an aim to do for workplace mental health what previous standards and legislation has done for physical health, by identifying and mitigating risks inherent in the workplace.

ISO 45003 identifies conditions and circumstances that might impact on psychological health and wellbeing, assess risk factors in order to determine what changes are need to enhance the working environment.

The key areas that are covered in ISO 45003 are:

  • Design and Organisation of Work

  • Social Factors

  • Environment

This standard supports the research and growing evidence that a strategic, holistic and organisational wide approach is needed that is employee centric and focusses on a preventative approach to wellbeing as well as reactive measures.

So how can you support employee mental health and build a psychologically safe culture:

  • Avoid blame - promote a culture where there is no fear in making a mistake and use these opportunities to learn for the future rather than looking for someone to blame when something goes wrong.

  • Be open to feedback - encourage your teams to offer their feedback, ideas, challenge decisions and have healthy conflict, this will lead to better decisions and accountability.

  • Treat everyone fairly - ensure that everyone gets the same opportunities for learning and development, promotional opportunities, involvement in special projects and reward and recognition. Do not tolerate any bullying, harassment or victimisation and deal with any that arises straight away.

  • Be clear on expectations - ensure your teams are clear on what is expected from them by when and make sure you communicate any changes to job roles well with ample opportunity for questions and feedback.

  • Promote a positive work life balance - promote a culture where people don’t feel they have to work evenings and weekend and regularly discuss workloads and identify when these are causes excessive stress and pressure.

  • Treat your teams as individuals - get to know your teams as people and not just employees, understand what motivates them, how they like to be communicated with and receive feedback, how much support and autonomy they want and check in regularly.

  • Promote your vision and values - ensure that everyone is clear on the vision and direction of the organisation and how every member of the team contributes to this vision. Continually embed agreed values and behaviours and manage appropriately when these are not adhered to.

If you would like to find out more about how we can support you please do get in touch on or call us on 01926 268160.

Gemma Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting

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