Flexible work and Psychological Safety

With more and more workers expecting to be able to access flexible working arrangements, employers are finding they may need to find more flexible options to attract and maintain employees.

Psychosocial hazards and risks

When considering flexible options, it’s important to understand the psychosocial risks that employees may face if they are working from a location other than their usual place of work.

Under work health and safety laws, psychosocial hazards and risks are treated the same as physical hazards and risks.

A psychological hazard is anything that may increase the risk of work-related stress, such as bullying, poor support or lack of role clarity. [Source: Safe Work Australia].

Impacts of flexible working

Workers who are already feeling stressed by their working situation, and poorly though out processes that do not consider their individual circumstances, may be doomed to problems right from the start.

With the proposed inclusion of psychosocial hazards into the Victorian OHS Regulations in 2022, returning to the workplace is a great opportunity to review how we manage psychological risk and to start the conversation with employees.

The NSW Centre for Work Health and Safety has recognised both the problem and the opportunity and have published a best practice guide for flexible and work-from-home arrangements based on research they conducted in to the impacts of flexible working.

In their own words:

“Flexible work is becoming more common and the demographic of the Australian workforce is shifting (e.g. ageing population, increase of women participation in management roles, increase of males undertaking caring roles, increased participation of workers with a disability, and global mobility reshaping the profile of organisations).

More businesses are providing flexible work arrangements leading to a pressing need for a new and more inclusive WHS framework. Workers are under a combined influence of individual psychological factors and the surrounding social environment on their wellbeing and ability to function.”

Other resources:

Safe Work Australia has developed a step-by-step process for preventing and managing psychological injury, intervening early and for taking action to prevent your workers becoming ill or sustaining a psychological injury.