stress

Is workaholism a real thing?

Have you ever called someone else or perhaps yourself a workaholic? Well despite it often talked about in a jovial manner, workaholism is actually a real thing. Sometimes considered by psychology and sociology academics as a behaviour-based addiction or compulsion, it is something that has been found to afflict pretty high portions of some populations, especially in western culture.
You might be surprised to hear that there’s even such a thing as Workaholics Anonymous for those who need help, akin to Alcoholics Anonymous or AA.
Workaholism occurs when someone is driven or motivated to work at an uncontrollable or overpowering level. But, it’s also a little more than this. Workaholics spend so much time, effort and energy on work that it starts to impact their relationships, family life, extra-curricular activities and even their health.
Some of the negative physical and psychological outcomes of workaholism are depression, burnout, poor health, life dissatisfaction, and relationship problems.

 

Given these pretty high stakes, it’s important for leaders and managers to know a little about what kind of workplace fosters workaholism. After all, it’s both a legal and moral responsibility for leaders to ensure that workers are safe and healthy in the workplace.

 

It’s no secret that our modern workplace culture is now set by technological advancements, continuous connectivity to the office, and increased pressure on organisations to remain competitive and efficient. But it’s these kinds of things that can urge us to feel like we must work harder and faster.
A 2014 report from The Australia Institute revealed that work-life balance has been declining in recent years, with the many feeling pressure to work longer hours to keep up. And, unsurprisingly, work-life imbalance has been found to be correlated with workaholism.
The great news is that we can change the nature of our workplace environments to avoid the likelihood of workaholism taking hold. Studies have found that a competitive workplace, a culture of overwork, performance comparisons between colleagues, and high job performance demands are all factors that may contribute to workaholism.
So, if you have any of these things bubbling away at your workplace and you think it might be negatively contributing to the health of your people, perhaps it may be time to rethink things.
And certainly supporting some healthy workplace initiatives coming up like ‘RUOK Day’ in September, ‘Ride to Work Day in October, or ‘Go Home on Time Day’ in November, will help cultivate the kind of culture that supports a fit work-life balance for your people.
Let’s make better, healthier and safer workplaces so that we can enjoy our time outside of work as well. Go team!

Read more about mental health and wellbeing at work:

5 things we do to keep our team happiness level on a high!

What on earth is psychological safety?

3 things you probably don’t think could be true about workplace bullying

 

Workplace bullying or workplace victimisation can lead to a range of negative outcomes for everyone involved.

 

Stress, low job satisfaction, burnout, depression, presenteeism and absenteeism are some of the more commonly discussed, and all of severely impact workplace productivity.

 

This list alone should make you want to ensure a bully-free workplace environment. And there are even more possible negative impacts that you may be less likely to think about straight away – including cardiovascular problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, and resignations.

 

There’s clearly a big reason why we’re all talking about workplace bullying right now. But the topic isn’t as simple as many initially think.

 

Here are three things that may challenge your assumptions of workplace bullying and how it works:

 

 

1. Subordinates can bully their seniors.

Don’t be fooled. It is certainly possible for bullying to occur up, down and across traditional lines of reporting in the workplace. Additionally, bullying can even occur between organisations too. Be careful not to assume that bullying behaviour is restricted to managers or those with traditional organisational power.

2. Victims are not always submissive and insecure.

It may be possible for victims to display what might be thought of as personality traits clearly suited to a bully. Some research has suggested that aggressive, hostile or irritating traits may combine to create a provocative character in a person, when paired with certain other personalities that may be more reactive. So, be careful not to assume that these kinds of character traits must be indicative of a bully in all cases.

3. Bullies and victims can switch roles interchangeably.

It is not always easy to know who is the perpetrator and who is the victim, as this may change over time, repeatedly, and as new players come into the scene. Consider the interplay between the personalities of different people – one may provoke, while the other reacts. Then one retaliates, as the other defends. It’s best to consider each bullying scenario as ‘relational’ – a social interaction – and avoid blaming the perpetrator or blaming the victim.

 

Remember that workplace bullying is not only a horrible experience for those directly involved, but it doesn’t do anything positive for the workplace culture in which it occurs. So, be sure to build the kind of workplace culture that refuses to harbour bullying. Learn more about the factors at play in our blog Should I be worried about my staff being bullied at work?

 

What on earth is psychological safety?

So, psychological safety. Maybe you remember that a few years ago Google released their findings about what makes the perfect team following some internal research. It was pretty big at the time. But in case you missed it, what they found was that ‘psychological safety’ was not only the most important factor of a successful team, it actually underpinned all the other factors.

 

Psychological safety is the understanding that members of a team will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, or concerns, and even admitting to mistakes or shortfalls. It is all about ensuring that team members feel comfortable and safe in taking risks and even feeling vulnerable on occasion around each other.

 

To put it into practical terms, think of the poorest team you have been part of – this may be in a work, sporting or personal relationship context. Maybe it was an absolute drag to meet with them. Maybe you felt like you were never going to achieve what you set out to achieve as a team. Or maybe there might have even been conflicts amongst the team members.

 

If you’ve experienced anything like this, it’s likely – according to Google’s research – that the team wasn’t psychologically safe. This is what prevents a team from thriving.

 

So, how do you go about getting psychological safety in a team?

 

Well, whether you are a manager or coach, a facilitator, a team participant or partner, the advice is largely the same;

 

  1. Be open to new ideas
  2. Respect those in your team and their views
  3. Listen without interruption

 

This, put simply, is treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself! Easy yeah?

 

And we think – like Google – that psychological safety is a critical factor when it comes to strong workplace health and safety. After all, if people don’t feel they can speak up about what’s making them feel unsafe, how can you go about fixing it and preventing injury or harm?

 

Here’s a link to that Google work on psychological safety that we mentioned earlier.

 

Some other useful articles along these psychological safety lines:

https://www.safetychampion.com.au/should-i-be-worried-about-my-staff-being-bullied-at-work/

https://www.safetychampion.com.au/5-things-we-do-to-keep-our-team-happiness-level-on-a-high/

It’s the perfect month, week and day to take action on mental health

Why now?

 

Because…

 

This month is National Safe Work Month in Australia…

 

And this week is Mental Health Week in most parts of the country…

 

And today (10/10) is World Mental Health Day around the globe.

 

So today is the day of all days to take action and encourage mentally healthier and safer workplaces in Australia.

 

“Around 90 per cent of employees think mental health is an important issue for businesses, but only 50 per cent believe their workplace is mentally healthy.”

TNS (2014). State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia. Melbourne: beyondblue. Link to report

 

How can you take action?

 

Building a mentally stronger and healthier workplace doesn’t have to be super complex.

 

As a starting point, it can be as simple as taking a note from great organisations like RUOK – and simply check in with your colleagues, staff or even (yes they are a person too!) your boss by asking “Are you ok?”

 

Just opening up the conversation about mental health in your workplace will already set you on the path towards reducing the stigma and getting people that vital support when they need it.

 

Keen to learn more? Well, there’s a wealth of freely available knowledge out there to assist you. Of all of these, the one spot we’d really recommend you go if you want to learn more about what you can do in the mental health space in the workplace, is Heads Up.

 

Heads Up was created by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, a collection of amazingly knowledgeable organisations – including beyondblue, Safe Work Australia and Black Dog Institute to name a few – working together to develop information and materials to help us all build mentally stronger workplaces. Check it out: https://www.headsup.org.au/

 

At Safety Champion we care a lot about keeping people at work mentally and physically well at work. This is why we are in business. And it’s also why we offer a completely free version of our software to any business that also cares about the health and safety of their people at work!

 

Keen to try it? Learn more about our free safety software here.

 

 

Some quick ideas:

  • Follow the work of great organisations like RUOk, beyondblue, Safe Work Australia and the Black Dog Institute

  • Take some training in Mental Health First Aid – or encourage a workmate to

  • Spend some time on the Heads Up website to get great resources and guidance specifically about workplace mental health

  • Get serious about health and safety practices. A safety software can really help you out – try our Go Free plan

 

Let’s make mentally healthier and safer workplace together! We can all be safety champion’s this National Safe Work Month!

 

So, you want to do something to encourage better mental health in your workplace?

Recently, The Black Dog Institute published an article about a study that showed strong evidence that training managers within workplaces about mental health can have a positive effect on improving occupational wellbeing for employees. But not only that, the study also indicated positive financial outcomes for businesses too! Great! No excuse now…

 

“Having a supportive manager can make a huge difference to a person’s mental wellbeing and giving basic mental health training to managers can bring significant changes to both confidence and behaviour among staff.”

Associate Professor Samuel Harvey

Workplace Mental Health Research Program, The Black Dog Institute

 

So, if you’ve started to wonder “how can I actually start to do something about supporting a mentally healthy workplace?” here’s some more info for you. We are lucky in Australia because we’ve got quite a few amazing organisations and institutions out there with loads of free information and tools to help you out.

 

The key one to point you to is the Heads Up Initiative. This has been developed by the ‘Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance’ – an Australian Government initiative – and beyondblue to get both business leaders and everyone for that matter to play their part in building mentally healthier working environments.

 

So, check out the Heads Up website for a stack of free resources, information, FAQs, and avenues to get further training or learn more. And find more resources from R U OK who have a heap of free every day resources along with campaign materials than can help you to initiate that first conversation in the office.

 

And, if you are after more information about creating a healthier and safer workplace for your people, check out the work of all of those organsiations that make up the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. Many of which have more information, tools and resources to help you out; like The Black Dog Institute, Mental Health Australia, Safe Work Australia and SANE.

 

 

And let’s not forget that managing everything to do with supporting happier, healthier and safer workplaces is well, just, easier with Safety Champion Software – helping you to keep it all ticking along and under control! Have a free trial today!

 

What on earth is ‘presenteeism’?

Certainly, when managing business, we take into account the impact of paid staff leave from both a financial and productivity point of view. We know the cost to the bottom line, how to manage the workload as our workers take their owed annual leave, how to pick up the slack quickly if someone is unexpectedly off sick, and we have the tools in place to properly track and monitor leave days. But have you thought about the impact of presenteeism? And, more, how to best manage it when it starts to happen?

 

While researching this blog, we actually found a lot of evidence (data mainly from USA) to suggest that presenteeism can have a larger impact on the operational and financial health of a business in comparison to sick leave – which is largely already taken in consideration by most businesses. Ok, so what are these two?

 

Absenteeism is when your workers are not actually in the workplace due to illness, planned leave, family emergencies, or other unplanned events like jury duty. It can become an issue to a business when the number of absent days exceeds what a business has allowed for as reasonable.

 

Presenteeism is when your workers still come to the workplace – only they are not actually working but are rather there in ‘presence’ only. In this case, workers could be ill, lacking motivation, overworked, etc.

 

So, what can you do about presenteeism to avoid this huge and, well, unaccounted for, impact to your business? Here are a few of suggestions – and no surprise – they are all related to ensuring you support the maintenance of a safe, happy and healthy workplace!

 

  1. Encourage your workers to maintain their health!

Suggest flu shots in winter, promote good hand hygiene (put some posters up in those bathrooms), send your workers home when they are showing signs of cold or flu, get a fruit box and support healthy eating, etc. Essentially, the healthier your staff, the better for everyone!

 

  1. Check in with your workers about their workload often.

Don’t expect your staff to always come forward when they are overworked and stressed. Also, don’t expect them to come forward if they feel underworked or believe they have more capacity. Try to actively start that conversation and encourage your managers and team leads to do the same. Motivate your workers. Help them to understand what the right balance is. After all, it is useless to overload a worker when this will actually have the opposite effect, demotivating them to do anything at all.

 

  1. Look out for the signs of poor mental or physical health.

This is tricky, but presenteeism can be common for people with health issues that are not overly visible to an employer, such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain issues and disease. So, this is about maintaining good and open communication with your workers, and trying to determine a way that will better support your staff if these kinds of health issues are present. Things like allowing your workers to work from home might assist or guiding them towards getting proper help.

 

So, there are just a few ideas from us. But really, the best way to manage presenteeism, and absenteeism for that matter, is good communication with your workers and maintaining a happy, healthy and safe workplace for all.

 

Workplace stress can be next to invisible… watch these videos

This health and safety month has placed a massive focus on building greater awareness of mental health in the workplace and developing more effective strategies to mitigate and manage these risks.

 

And to follow suit, many businesses – large and small – are now far more aware of what they need to look out for to protect their workers from unnecessary mental health concerns including stress, anxiety and depression. We think this is great!

 

A big part of this shift in thinking is the emergence of initiatives like beyondblue’s Heads Up which aims to assist Australian businesses with working towards becoming mentally happier and healthier places to be.

 

And recently Heads Up released a few really powerful short videos that help to shed light on the ‘invisible’ nature of workplace stress. It is, after all, something that isn’t overtly obvious to others in the workplace and at home, requiring us all to take the time to think about it and look out for it.

 

So if you are a bit of a fan of watching short, powerful and beautifully produced videos, check these out;

 

Watch The Eye

Watch The Pulse

Watch The Clench

 

Mental health is well and truly within the realm of what we are talking about when we encourage all businesses to protect the health and safety of their workers.

 

So, why not share these videos today with your staff, access great tools and more on the Heads Up website, or read more from us about how to prevent stress from escalating in the workplace.

 

One way to improve overall wellbeing in your business today

There is no question about it – looking after the health and wellbeing of both you and your people is quite simply good for business. You’ve likely heard all about the trendy, multinational businesses like Google, HSBC, and Facebook promoting their employee wellbeing initiatives to making sure their people are supported to keep a positive work-life balance. But, what can us smaller guys – without the budgets and time to get awesome initiatives off the ground – really do to keep our staff happy and healthy?

 

Well, we would argue that the first place you should start is, perhaps, with yourself. Sounds harsh but a recent article on ABC News pointed out that many Australian SME owners may be putting health and wellbeing on the backburner and are commonly experiencing fatigue, stress and loss of motivation because of their work. Not an ideal situation.

 

Now think about the expression ‘leading by example’. It’s not really a stretch to think that in some cases, the poor experiences of business owners may be negatively influencing their workers as well. For example, if the boss is working long hours, it’s possible they are building a culture of long work hours across the board. And if the boss has low morale and is frustrated, then their people may feel equally as low.

 

So if you want to build positive health and wellbeing into your business, then what we suggest you do first is look after yourself. Look at the way you act in the office. Walk the talk. Eat well. Be mindful. Talk nicely. Work appropriate hours. Understand that what you feel on a daily basis is likely to be reflected onto your teams. Stop and think about how you might be perceived by your workers. And if you notice some bad habits that don’t do you any favours, consider changing them so you can set the example for a happy and healthy in the workplace.

 

After all, investing in people, including you, is simply good for business.

A two-question quiz to help you find the right health and wellbeing app for you

We are hearing more and more about it these days. Issues of poor mental health and general wellbeing are on the rise in Australia, and in Australian workplaces. Actually, Beyond Blue report one in every five Australians experience a mental health condition in a given year, and around 63% of Australian’s were considered overweight or obese in 2014-2015 according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. These are some shockingly big numbers.

 

If you are sitting on a train or you’re at work right now, look around you. With the prevalence of mental and physical health concerns being this high, it’s more than likely that many of the people you see right now could be dealing with related issues. And, of course, this could be affecting not only their personal life, but their professional career as well.

 

So, what to do? Well, we found that leading mental health wellbeing organisation ReachOut had a little tool to help you out. Just follow a simple two-question quiz on their website and you will be presented with all the perfect apps suitable to help you manage and improve your health and wellbeing.

 

As a business owner, manager, team leader, or even a colleague and a friend – what can you do to help others around you? It’s of course often a delicate issue and not one to call out publicly. But taking action to encourage better mental and physical health in your workplace is certainly part of your role in ensuring your workers experience a safe and healthy workplace every day. So, it’s more than relevant.

 

So why not share this great tool today and encourage your workers and colleagues to think about how they are and how they might improve their mental and physical wellbeing. It only takes a brief email to all staff or a quick mention in a team meeting the next time you are discussing wellbeing or health and safety in your workplace.

Ways to reduce the risks of fatigue in your workplace.

There’s no denying that the 24/7, ‘always on’ world we are now living in is becoming more than a worry when it comes to both our mental and physical health and wellbeing. And one of the biggest worries is sleep – or more specifically, the lack thereof! A recent report released by the Sleep Health Foundation highlighted that the daytime consequences of inadequate sleep are increasingly common, affecting up to 45% of the population. So that made us wonder – what does this mean for health and safety in the workplace?

 

Unsurprisingly, the report revealed that a lack of sleep can affect worker performance. Scarily, 29% of adults in the study reported that they had made errors at work due to sleepiness or sleep problems. While 17% reported that they missed work due to feeling sleepy. So, encouraging good quality sleep is clearly important for any business looking to optimise productivity and worker performance.

 

But it goes further than this. Many workplaces need to manage high consequence hazards that may be heavily impacted by fatigue. One of the key hazards, common to many roles and workplaces, is driving. On this point, the Sleep Health Foundation report revealed some alarming stats with 29% of people reporting that they have driven whilst drowsy and 20% actually nodded off whilst doing it. But worse still, 5% of the respondents reported having had an accident in the past 12 months due to dozing off! So, if driving is part of your workers role, or is even simply the way they get to and from work, supporting your workers to get better sleep is vital.

 

So what can you do? Whilst we’d all love to provide a room full of hammocks, nap pods like Google, or a dedicated siesta time, it’s unfortunately not practical for all workplaces! So below are some simple and effective considerations to help you manage the impact of fatigue on your workers:

 

Talk to your workers

Learn whether the work itself might be a contributing factor to the sleep quality of your workers. Discover whether there are tasks that your workers identify as dangerous or difficult when they are fatigued. Talking to your workers will help you identify the health and safety hazard, so you can establish a process to control it and manage the risks.

 

Change your workplace culture

Don’t disadvantage workers who turn their phone or email off when they leave the office. And don’t just say this, actively encourage it by setting the example yourself and communicating about the importance of switching off to allow for proper rest and recuperation.

 

Provide workers with information

The Sleep Health Foundation has over 75 fact sheets that can guide and inform you. Use these to lead a health and safety toolbox talk with your workers, or print a few of the most relevant ones to pin up in the staff kitchen.

 

Establish a Driving for Work Policy

This is a guideline that maps out safe distances to be travelled within specific time periods, start and finish times, car safety ratings should there be an incident, etc. It can help to manage the risks of driving while on the job.

 

Sleep disorder screenings

For higher risk workers, such as those who work in transport, shift work, or operate heavy machinery, consider whether a sleep disorder screening could be of benefit. This may be pre-employment or routinely during employment and can help you to manage the risks.

 

 

However, as you explore the workplace factors that may contribute to fatigue risks, remember that it’s not only work related tasks that contribute. The fatigue hazard exists whether it is a result of work or non-work related activity. So, watch out for other personal or home-related factors such as workers with newborn babies or stress.

 

Check out this useful factsheet about fatigue as an occupational hazard to help you make sure you are on top of managing the risks.

 

 

How to prevent stress from escalating in your workplace.

This is news to a lot of businesses we work with, but currently work-related stress is the second most commonly compensated illness or injury in Australia. So, it’s a big deal and something for businesses to certainly watch out for. But how does it escalate to this point? And what signs can you look out for to ensure that your staff don’t burn out before year-end?

 

Did you know that mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year? [Safe Work Australia, 8 April 2013]

 

Work-related stress often arises when work demands exceed a worker’s capacity and capability to cope. This may be seen through changes in a worker’s mood such as increased nervousness, low morale, inattentiveness, anxiety, negativity and frustration. But it may also become apparent through changes in your workers ability to perform to their usual standard. If you notice changes in staff productivity such as missed deadlines, changes in quality of work, tense relationships between staff, and increased sick days, ask yourself whether there may be a stressor in the workplace contributing to or causing this.

 

Workplace change such as restructures, new leadership, and other major organisational events like EOFY are known workplace stressors. Therefore, it is important that you consider the health and safety of your workers whenever your business is undergoing any of these events. Be on the front foot to mitigate the risk of stress on your staff. During these times, and anytime you notice the tell tail signs of stress mentioned above, ask some of the following questions:

 

  • Have you placed unreasonable deadlines or pressure on your staff?
  • Is there a change in the duties you have asked them to perform?
  • Are you over- or under-supervising?
  • Is the work boring or without challenge? Is it too hard?
  • Do your workers have the resources to fulfil the duties of their role? This could be time, skills, team members, or physical resources.
  • Is there an adequate working environment or equipment available?
  • Has there been adequate opportunity for promotion, training or upskilling?
  • Is harassment or discrimination being experienced?

 

Identifying risk is the first step to managing stress, just like any other hazard in the workplace. So, look out for the early warning signs and communicate these to your business leaders, Health and Safety Representatives and workers. Then you can assess them, determine effective control measures and prevent stress from escalating into something much more serious.

 

Remember that stress not only impacts your workers’ productivity and quality of work, but it can also extend beyond the workplace and into your workers’ private lives. And of course, the last thing that any of us want is to affect the family life, personal relationships and health of our colleagues around us.

 

Looking for more direction on how to identify whether stress may be a hazard in your business? Take a look at WorkSafe Victoria’s Stresswise Toolkit Worksheet. What we love about this resource is that it provides businesses with a simple approach that can be easily implemented at your workplace. Just like what we at Safety Champion do.