Discover the first international standard on psychological health, safety and well-being at work
Managing Director, UK & Eire at BSI Assurance
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic created unimaginable change within our everyday lives, including our time at work. As we slowly migrate into our ‘next normal’ we’re continuing to adapt to new ways of working and continued change. As businesses amend their operations to remain resilient, many are facing a more permanent shift to remote working due to office closures, new policies, or a change in responsibilities.
With the amount of unpredictability and disruption we have all been exposed to, there have undoubtedly been conversations amongst businesses about how to effectively manage and support employee mental health as we face these new challenges.
The latest development in this area is that organisations wanting to prioritise the mental health of their employees can now adopt ISO 45003, the first international standard on psychological health, safety and well-being at work.
International standards are written by subject matter experts
So what is ISO 45003, and why are standards important?
International standards are written by subject matter experts from around the world who agree on what good looks like, whilst taking into consideration points of view from organisations of different sizes from a range of industries, academia and governments.
Simply put, standards offer organisations a framework to help ensure they are embedding best practice and implementing changes effectively to enhance their resilience. The international standardgives simple, practical guidance on identifying where psychological health and safety risks arise in the workplace and what organisations of any size and type can do to reduce them – thus alleviating anxiety, burnout, depression, and low productivity amongst employees.
ISO 45003 is designed to make the topic of psychological health and safety accessible to all. The focus is on understanding the sources of harm that an organisation can control. These come from the way work is organised, social factors at work, and work environment and equipment. It also provides guidance on how to involve employees in decision making, to ensure meaningful participation and consultation. The sources of harm that are within the organisations control are not intangible or overwhelming – there are a range of risk controls that organisations can consider.
To help reduce risks it is critical to gather insight about what they are
With a topic as important as psychological health and safety, it can be difficult for businesses to know where to begin. Employees are needing greater transparency, increased flexibility and more sustainable ongoing support from their employers to ensure they can continue to thrive at work, which can be a daunting task for many businesses and their leaders. This is where a framework can really add value to an organisation.
To help reduce risks it is critical to gather insight about what they are. There are a number of ways that an organisation can identify potential risks to employee’s mental health that ISO 45003 explores. This can be done by reviewing job descriptions, analysing tasks, schedules and locations; consulting with workers, clients and other interested parties; analysing performance evaluations, worker surveys, standardised questionnaires amongst other approaches to help shape your solutions.
For organisations, the impact of psychological risks includes increased costs due to absence from work, reduced ability to work effectively and increased staff turnover, as well as potential damage to the organisation’s reputation. Thriving and healthy workforces typically perform 2.2 times better than organisations who don’t invest in their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
Effective management can eliminate or mitigate risks against mental health and wellbeing and lead to positive benefits for employees, such as:
- enhanced productivity,
- greater communication and transparency,
- improved engagement and retention, and
- a more inclusive company culture
The best workplace well-being programmes recognise that there are many components to well-being
Most organisations will have some form of well-being initiatives in place, but it is important to evaluate its effectiveness regularly to ensure it is still fit for purpose. The best workplace well-being programmes recognise that there are many components to well-being – including the individual, the work environment, the organisation and social engagement levels.
A focus on well-being works to create an organisational culture which promotes strong, ethical workplace relationships based on trust and respect. Openness and transparency promote a collaborative and communicative management style and a culture in which learning, and development is encouraged allowing people to fulfil their potential, as well as promoting good psychological health. By proactively looking at opportunities for improvement, such as adopting, organisations create a culture of care towards their employees and enable a happier, more productive and loyal workforce resulting in a truly sustainable business.