It’s about the cake: baking in psychosocial risk assessment for a mentally healthy workplace

Published August 17, 2021

A strong, supportive workplace, with a sense of shared purpose, clear objectives, manageable workload and responsive leadership, can help people thrive in their lives as well as their careers. Employees who feel they have psychological support have greater job attachment, commitment and performance, as well as satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

By contrast, high job demands, low job control, poor balance between effort and reward, injustices, role stress, bullying and low social support in the workplace are associated with an increased risk of developing mental health problems that are every bit as damaging as physical injuries. But unlike well-established systems to document physical injury risks, assessing the impact of the workplace on mental health is uncharted territory for many organisations.

The issue is however gaining new urgency. Following amendments agreed in May to the national model Work Health and Safety Regulations, employers will soon be obliged to systematically assess and mitigate psychosocial risks in the same way as physical risks, and subject to the same penalties for breaches.

At a recent CMHAA member event, we spoke with Dr Carlo Caponecchia, a Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of NSW’s Faculty of Science. Dr Caponecchia has a background in psychology, human factors and safety, with expertise in psychosocial risks and safe systems of work. He described the latest developments in the emerging discipline of psychosocial risk assessment. Here we share four of his key take-outs.