Creating a Psychologically Healthy Workplace

Think about your ideal working environment for a moment. Chances are, you thought of a company where your efforts would be valued and rewarded. Your supervisor would outline clear and concrete goals, and give you ample time to achieve them. Your coworkers would be supportive and dedicated, ready to lend a hand when you needed it. When you needed time off, your employer would be understanding and flexible about your schedule, and would provide benefits that promoted your health and well-being. You’d be given the training you needed for advancement within the company, and your job would be challenging without being frustrating.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? In a perfect world, we’d all work in a healthy atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, and our employers would put their employees first. But here, in the real world, working conditions are often far less than ideal. Overworked and unappreciated, many workers suffer serious effects due to psychologically unhealthy conditions on the job.

It’s not easy to define an unhealthy job environment. Each case is different, but it’s true that “we know it when we see it”. High pressure to meet targets, emotionally isolated employees, lack of communication, hostile working conditions, and unrealistic expectations are hallmarks of a troubled workplace. While some amount of work-related stress is natural and even healthy (no stress may mean you’re not being challenged), when stress builds up it has adverse effects on employees and employers alike.

Why are psychologically healthy workplaces APL important for employers? A recent study by Northwestern National Life found that twenty-five percent of workers cite their jobs as the number-one source of stress in their lives. Stress can contribute to employee illness and lost time at work. Stressful job conditions can lead to distraction and cause work-related injuries. It can result in increased employee turnover and reduced productivity, costing companies money and opportunity.

Every year the American Psychological Association presents its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards to companies in six categories, ranging from government and educational institutions to large and small businesses. The entrants are judged in five categories: employee involvement, work/life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. These five elements are vital in reducing workplace stress and promoting employee welfare, according to the American Psychological Association.

o Employee involvement is vital to a healthy workplace. Employees who feel empowered in their daily tasks and who have some degree of control over their work flow are happier and more productive. Something as simple as arranging desks into clusters to allow discussion and contact between employees can have a great effect on employee morale. Communication should be a two-way street, with both management and employees discussing company projects and learning from each other; it’s especially important that employees feel management is receptive to suggestions and constructive criticism. When conflicts arise, they should be addressed promptly and resolved to the benefit of all parties, where this is possible.

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