You wouldn’t feel safe working in a high-rise building that didn’t have handrails on the balconies, would you?
Neither would feel safe to work around a worksite where your employer didn’t support you with the proper personal protective equipment or safety training.
But have you thought about how your employer makes you feel psychologically safe? Or how they train you to protect your mental well-being?
Why is psychological safety at work important?
Psychological safety at work must feel real. As real and visible as the support for your physical safety.
When you don’t feel psychologically safe, it can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression, which can affect both your personal and professional life.
Moreover, a lack of psychological safety can impact your job performance and make it difficult for you to take risks or share ideas. Your employer also has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, which includes ensuring psychological safety.
How to tell if your workplace offers mental well-being support
If you’re unsure how much your employer prioritizes psychological safety or mental well-being support, there are several ways to find out.
First, check your employee handbook or HR portal to see if there are any policies or programs in place that address mental health or well-being. Look for information about employee assistance programs, mental health resources, and wellness initiatives.
You can also speak with your supervisor or HR representative to ask about any mental health support available to employees. Additionally, pay attention to how your employer responds to mental health concerns or accommodations. If your employer is dismissive or unresponsive to requests for mental health accommodations, it may be a sign that psychological safety is not a priority.
Finally, you can seek out and participate in any mental health or well-being programs that are available to employees to see if they meet your needs and expectations. By taking these steps, you can gain a better understanding of your employer’s stance on psychological safety and mental well-being and make informed decisions about your own mental health.
Examples of amazing mental health support systems
The following examples demonstrate how employers can go above and beyond to create a psychologically safe and supportive workplace.
Sports, wellness & fitness | 501-1000 employees
At the AFL, their people have a strong connection to their purpose of progressing the game, so everyone can share in its heritage and possibilities. To achieve this purpose, their team needs to be at their best, thriving, both at work and in life – which is why they make well-being the heart of everything they do at the AFL.
Play Well, the AFL’s health and well-being program, aims to create and sustain a psychologically, safe, healthy, and thriving workplace for their people. Their approach to thriving is supported by Play Well’s four pillars, Healthy Workplace, Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, and Healthy Life, providing a holistic framework for supporting the well-being of their team.
The AFL also offers four Wellness Days a year, where their people can take a day every quarter to rest and hit the re-set button and do something that supports their well-being. To help make the most of their Wellness Day, the AFL provides up to $400 reimbursement to spend on a health and well-being activity. In 2022 over 1500 wellness days were taken across the AFL, supporting the physical, mental, and emotional health of their team.
“I took my Q2 day to recover from running the Great Ocean Road half marathon and used the generous $100 to pay for the race entry fee. It was such a great use of the wellness day to recover from very sore legs!”
– Elisa Koch, Head of Data & Analytics.
“Being a mother of two young children, and having the opportunity to take a Wellness Day, to spend just to myself, makes me a better mother and teammate. It’s the self-care that working parents can often neglect and struggle to find time to do.”
– Louise Thornton, Capability, Development & Well-being Lead.
The team at AFL also set personal well-being goals, alongside their performance and development goals every quarter, empowering their team to prioritize their mental health and well-being, helping to check-in on how they’re tracking and what they need to continue to be at their best.
Via their well-being partner they promote and provide easy access to the right intervention, professional support services, information, and resources including access to six free, confidential counselling sessions for their team and their families, a well-being app, monthly flourish e-magazine, and online portal accessible 24/7.
- Run several webinars, delivered internally by AFL’s Head of Mental Health and Well-being, Dr Kate Hall, as well as expert external facilitators aligned to mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, and resilience (just to name a few).
- Rolled out a new 12-month parenting program.
- Offered free skin and health checks and free flu shots.
- Included Mental Health First Aid as a leadership competency, offering MHFA accreditation to all their leaders.
“The Mental Health First Aid course has given me the knowledge to be confident to respond in a valuable way and offer assistance in the workplace. I’m proud to say that I work for an organization that has Mental Health First Aiders; it helps to normalize the discussion and, hopefully, one day makes it as accepted as everyday physical first aid.”
– Shelley Gardener, Manager Ticketing Services and Workforce Planning.
Mining, resources & energy | 1,001-5,000 employees
Water Corporation continues to create a diverse and inclusive culture where their employees feel safe, valued, respected, and that they belong in a workplace that offers ample opportunities and resources.
Established in 2020, Water Corporation’s Mental Health Champions program is one such initiative that aims to promote a positive workplace culture.
The program helps their employees develop their mental health knowledge. It’s a network of trained employees who provide on-the-ground support for anyone needing to talk to someone, or to help them get access to professional assistance.
Water Corporation has partnered with Blooming Minds to provide their Mental Health Champions with training, resources, and ongoing support. The Champions take part in different mentoring activities over 12 months to equip them with knowledge and skills to hold appropriate conversations. This builds the skills and knowledge that enables them to help their workmates when they need it most.
Recently, a further 54 Water Corporation employees graduated as Mental Health Champions. This was the fourth intake since 2020, taking the overall number of Champions to 300. Three hundred people who’ve stood up to lend an ear and hold the door open for others to share how they’re feeling.
Maree De La Mare, Team Leader – Health & Well-being explains,
“Our Mental Health Champions are essential in challenging the stigmas associated with mental health, changing the way we think and act about mental health in our workplace.
“Their goal is to raise awareness of mental health problems among employees, challenge the stigmas associated with mental health, and provide peer support. This will help create a sustainable, inclusive, safe work environment where our people can feel comfortable asking for help.
“If we all work together to ensure nobody feels left behind, then we’re heading in the right direction.”