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Case Study: How does Optus Manage Psychological Health and Safety?

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.


Current estimates indicate that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year, the bulk of which is comprised of productivity loss due to absenteeism and presenteeism.¹ With the financial and social implications clear, many organisations are now turning to their Human Resources and Work Health & Safety teams to identify and implement relevant strategies that can help to address the risks and opportunities associated with Workplace Psychological Health & Safety. Optus is one such organisation.


What issues was Optus facing in terms of workplace mental health?

Like many organisations Optus had delivered to their staff basic “awareness raising” programs, but were not able to identify any tangible results in return. It became apparent that Optus needed to do more in this space not only to manage these risks, but to empower their employees to respond effectively to psychological hazards in the workplace.

Optus recognised that a much more considered, strategic, evidence-based, workplace-specific approach was required – with an emphasis on early intervention and prevention, and the workplace systems and environment that influence psychological wellbeing. Megan Kingham, Manager Workplace Health says “While awareness programs have their place they should not be stand-alone. As with all wellbeing programs Optus recognises the need to address both individual behaviour and the working environment. There is no point raising awareness of mental health issues and then expecting people to work in mentally unhealthy workplaces.”

With concerns around the efficacy of the traditional ‘awareness’ programs on offer within the market, Optus turned to CommuniCorp to deliver a bespoke solution. Geoff Hoad, Director Workplace Health & Safety said CommuniCorp was able to help us develop a strategy that is the foundation of how we manage psychological risk at Optus.


What has been done so far?

After securing the critical senior leader sponsorship for the strategy, Optus began implementing the CommuniCorp “Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplaces Framework”. The framework encourages organisations to not only focus on the key psychological safety factors that are part of an organisations’ legal and compliance responsibilities, but builds on these as foundations to implement policies, practices, systems and initiatives that maximise the potential for positive psychological health and wellbeing. Key initial steps in the Optus Healthy Minds strategy were:

  • Updating Work Health and Safety policies to reflect a focus on psychological health and safety;
  • Developing a Psychosocial risk register that sits within the WHS risk registers across the business,including a thorough list of psychosocial hazards known to potentially cause psychological harm or injury and how they might present in the workplace specific to Optus.WHS representatives then customised this register to each specific business unit, recognising the different impacts that the psychosocial hazards might have on the particular work areas and the nature of the work undertaken across the different units. These new risk registers then allowed consistent reporting and data collection across different business units;
  • HR and WHS personnel were identified as a priority for training given that they are considered internal experts on managing psychological concerns/injury/illness and felt that presently there was a gap in this knowledge base. Full day training sessions with all Optus HR and WHS personnel were undertaken, with a focus on increasing their knowledge, confidence and capabilities for identifying, intervening, managing and preventing psychological health concerns at Optus.

What have been the results?

“Healthy Minds is an ongoing initiative for which baseline measures have been achieved, and which should provide a comparison for ongoing measures. In particular, investigating the impact on psychological injury rates, grievance complaints, and safety issues will be used as indicators,” says Kingham

Metrics indicate a number of key improvements for the HR and WHS personnel as a result of the training:

  • Confidence discussing mental health issues in the workplace – 19% increase (66% to 85%)
  • Confidence intervening if a colleague shows signs of distress at work – 18% increase (68% to 86%)
  • Knowledge of where to go and how to access internal support resources –19% increase (74% to 93%)
  • Confidence in capability for what to do and not to do to support someone at work with a mental illness – 29% increase (54% to 83%)

Typically the benefits derived from workplace psychological health initiatives take the form of reduced absenteeism, presenteeism and lower numbers in compensation claims. Statistics point to a positive return on investment of a $3 return for every $2 spent on successful actions.¹

Kingham says “whilst we are in the first stage of implementing the Healthy Minds Strategy at Optus, all indications are that there will be substantial return to the organisation.”


What’s next?

"We’re extremely pleased with the results from the first phase of our Workplace Psychological Health & Safety strategy. All indicators point to greater confidence within the WHS and HR teams when addressing these psychological health and safety issues and we are keen to see these skills developed more broadly within Optus. The next priority in terms of a capability gap identified is the people leaders"  says Megan Kingham, Manager Workplace Health.

Optus WHS are assisting all business units to undertake training for all people leaders, which takes the form of a full day training session focusing on the identification, intervention, management and prevention of psychological injury and illness for individual team members as well as the psychosocial safety of broader teams. Training is customised to business units, to reflect the day-to-day work scenarios faced by leaders across the different work areas. A big focus is on practical training elements, ensuring that Optus people leaders genuinely develop greater confidence and capability in relation to psychological health in the workplace.

“This is an emerging trend and increasingly important. We will continue to expand our skills and knowledge in order to create a work environment that supports our people,” says Hoad.


1. “Creating a mentally healthy workplace | Return on investment analysis” PwC March 2014

"The role of work-life boundaries and mindfulness in a psychologically safe and healthy work environment"

During June CommuniCorp is hosting a series of Senior Executive Business Forums entitled "The role of work-life boundaries and mindfulness in a psychologically safe and healthy work environment". These 2 hour breakfast forums hosted in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will be free of charge for eligible senior HR/WHS executives from large (300+ FTE staff) government and commercially focused organisations. To ensure a genuine peer based learning environment, attendance is limited to those directly responsible for developing and implementing practical strategies for workplace psychological health.

Led by leading corporate psychology expert, Dr Chris Stevens, these senior executive forums will take a candid look at the complex issues around work-life boundaries and the rise of workplace mindfulness in the corporate world. They will not only address the business case/benefits of developing capabilities in these domains, but also look at dispelling the myths surrounding these concepts, practical considerations around organisational readiness, critical success factors as well as how to maximise your program effectiveness in these areas.


Register your interest to attend, and receive additional information regarding these sessions:

Email info@communicorpgroup.com
Phone 1300 855 140
Web www.communicorpgroup.com








The Rise of Mental Health

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Monday, April 27, 2015.


There is a unique range of complexities and challenges associated with improving mental health in the workplace. In this article, David Burroughs, Managing Director and Principal Psychologist at CommuniCorp, discusses the rise of workplace mental health issues.

Associated with the challenges of improving mental health is the increasing recognition of the importance of a psychologically safe and healthy workplace: "That is, workplaces that promote individual, team and organisational psychological wellbeing and prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to employee mental health," says Burroughs.

"This type of approach is somewhat of an evolution from traditional approaches that focus on physical wellbeing and on mental health awareness/clinical disorders, in that it focuses on psychological health from a practical, systemic and workplace-specific perspective," says Burroughs, who notes that almost every organisation is asking its people to do more with less resources, is undergoing some degree of rapid workplace change, and has staff grappling with the blurred lines between work and home life.

"Many corporates are now driving their workplace psychological health initiatives out of their OHS areas, and they are focusing on psychological risk, moving away from community-based and diagnosis-based/medicalised approaches to ones customised for the idiosyncrasies of their own workplaces, business units and job types." There is a growing appetite for outcomes to be more than just awareness or participation, but to have discernible impact on human resource metrics and business indicators, and consider the sustainability of impact, according to Burroughs.

While the whole workplace mental health area can seem incredibly complex for many organisations, he says some of the biggest challenges they face in this area is getting the right strategy in place. "We are still seeing an over-reliance on EAPs or tertiary-type approaches that kick in after an issue has arisen, rather than a genuine focus on early intervention and prevention of psychological issues and approaches that address the psychosocial factors that contribute to psychological ill-health," says Burroughs.

"For many organisations, there is still a misguided sense that having an EAP in place, or doing R U OK? Day, or participating in Mental Health Week is all that's required. While R U OK? Day/Mental Health Week are great ideas and can be an incredible opportunity for launching more strategic initiatives, by themselves they are generally not sufficient to make a sustainable impact on workplace psychological health."

Many organisations grapple with the issue of how to move beyond awareness-raising to build real workplace mental health capabilities and how to build and implement practical solutions to complex workplace mental health issues, when much of the information is of an academic or community mental health nature, he says. "Of course, getting executive buy-in for adopting a more strategic, evidence-based initiative still remains a challenge," says Burroughs


It is critical that organisations understand the "business case" for developing mental health, as it applies to their organisation, according to Burroughs. "There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to workplace mental health - some organisations want to contain workers compensation costs, others want to ensure WHS compliance, others want to improve customer outcomes, drive productivity, reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, while others want to be an employer of choice," he says.

Defining what you want to achieve is important, as it helps guide the approach taken and helps define the metrics/measures you would use to help evaluate the success of the initiatives being put in place."

Understanding the psychosocial priority areas of an organisation is also a key part of the process. This can be done by having a closer look at existing HR metrics - such as absenteeism, psychological injury rates and so on - and identifying "hot spots", running targeted focus groups; alternatively, deploying one of the many psychosocial risk assessment tools now on the market, some of which are free to use. "In reality, though, all you need to do is ask most internal HR/WHS team members which business units are most under pressure, or look at the roles with the most uncertainty and change or scrutiny and you will often have a good indication of where your priority areas are," says Burroughs.

It is also important that organisations have a look at what they have done already, what resources they have in place, what psychological health-related policies and procedures they have already and how effective they are. "No one wants to reinvent the wheel. Most organisations have some psychological health-related infrastructure in place, and especially in times of limited budgets, it is important to build on what is already in place," he says.


If an organisation implements practical initiatives to develop the psychological health and safety of their workplace, there are a number of benefits that can be realised, says Burroughs. "this can include improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced number of psychological injuries, greater engagement from employees, reduced bullying/harassment grievances, and improved teamwork and interpersonal relationships. Of course, it also relies on organisations capturing these metrics before and after initiatives, and on an ongoing basis.

"From research done to date, there are estimates of an ROI figure of upwards of 15, with greater benefits documented for smaller business. However, similar results would most likely be seen at team or business unit levels for larger organisations, should initiatives target the psychological health needs of the organisation at these discrete levels. With increased capability of people leaders and WHS/HR leaders, it is also more likely that opportunities for intervention and proactive management of psychological health issues are undertaken, and the outcome is likely to be far better than if no action had been taken. Through identifying and acting upon psychosocial risks impacting on their workplace, organisations will also be far better equipped to prevent psychological injury or illness, thereby supporting and building the psychological health and safety of their workplace."

This article first appeared in OHS Professional magazine, a Safety Institute of Australia publication. www.sia.org.au



"The role of work-life boundaries and mindfulness in a psychologically safe and healthy work environment"

During June CommuniCorp is hosting a series of Senior Executive Business Forums entitled "The role of work-life boundaries and mindfulness in a psychologically safe and healthy work environment". These 2 hour breakfast forums hosted in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will be free of charge for eligible senior HR/WHS executives from large (300+ FTE staff) government and commercially focused organisations. To ensure a genuine peer based learning environment, attendance is limited to those directly responsible for developing and implementing practical strategies for workplace psychological health.

Led by leading corporate psychology expert, Dr Chris Stevens, these senior executive forums will take a candid look at the complex issues around work-life boundaries and the rise of workplace mindfulness in the corporate world. They will not only address the business case/benefits of developing capabilities in these domains, but also look at dispelling the myths surrounding these concepts, practical considerations around organisational readiness, critical success factors as well as how to maximise your program effectiveness in these areas.


Register your interest to attend, and receive additional information regarding these sessions:

Email info@communicorpgroup.com
Phone 1300 855 140
Web www.communicorpgroup.com








Strategic Planning for Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplaces

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Monday, March 02, 2015.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE BUSINESS FORUMS (2 hrs and Free of Charge)

SYDNEY, MELBOURNE, BRISBANE, ADELAIDE & CANBERRA | MARCH 2015

With growing recognition that awareness and diagnosis based initiatives are largely ineffective in stemming the rise of workplace psychological health concerns, many organisations are investing more time, in up-front planning and in ongoing program review, to ensure they are maximising their impact in this area. As such, this seminar is specifically designed to help guide senior HR/WHS executives in terms of identifying sustainable, strategic approaches for developing psychologically safe and healthy workplaces – where not only compliance issues are addressed but where the benefits of a flourishing workplace can also be achieved. It outlines the various policies, procedures, systems and people capabilities required to positively influence workplace psychological health at the individual, team/business unit and organisational level as well as options for identifying priority areas and quantifying program outcomes.

By dedicating time to strategic planning, and to ongoing refinement and review of programs already underway, organisations can maximise their return on investment, not just in terms of reduced psychological injury claims, and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism costs, but in terms of discernible improvements to engagement, corporate performance and productivity.

CommuniCorp’s team of senior psychologist have been working to achieve positive outcomes for corporate clients in this area for over a decade, drawing on and defining best practice approaches internationally. These highly applied sessions are based on our real world experience and will enable executives to make an informed assessment of what they already have in place, what they can leverage from, and what capabilities/action points can be developed in-house. Participants will also receive access to practical checklists and strategy guides, as well as a wealth of practical information on:

  • The practicalities of Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces (PS&HW)
  • System, policy and procedural considerations
  • Determining organisational specific ‘business cases’, psychosocial hazards and priority areas – action, strategies and tools
  • Roles and responsibilities – introduction to Necessary and Sufficient Skills Gap Analysis
  • Determining program effectiveness - what, how and when to measure and what to expect


Cost: Free of charge. Limited to 12 places. Maximum 1 representative from any single organisation. Eligibility and cancellation/non-attendance provisions apply*

To register your interest for this forum, please contact, visit www.communicorgroup.com, phone us on 1300 855 140 or send an email to info@communicorpgroup.com *eligibility criteria applies

*ELEGIBILTY CRITERIA

This seminar is designed for senior HR/WHS executives with strategic/operational responsibility for psychological health related initiatives from larger organisations (300+ FTE staff). The content, methodologies and activities/action points within the session are typically only applicable for those with strategic HR and WHS oversight in this area and not applicable to those in Injury Management/Rehabilitation/RTW roles.

For Injury Management/Rehabilitation/RTW professionals and those in HR/WHS Advisory/Consultant or Business Support/Partner roles, please visit the CommuniCorp website or the Psychologically Healthy Workplaces Australia Linked In Group for information on relevant seminars and workshops when they become available.

Given the very limited places available, attendance at this event is by invitation and through expression of interest only (contact info@communicorpgroup.com). Preference will be given to attendees/organisations who have yet to attend a previous CommuniCorp event and/or are not currently CommuniCorp clients. Representatives and staff from, or affiliated with, corporate training organisations or psychological service providers, HR, WHS/OH&S and management related consultancies are ineligible to attend. Attendance is at the sole discretion of CommuniCorp


Employer Response Post-Siege Incident

Posted by David Burroughs on Sunday, February 22, 2015.

Post-siege: Essential information for Employers

On Monday 15th December the daily routine of many Sydney office-workers preparing for a busy week at work unfolded in a completely unexpected and terrifying way. As news spread of the siege in the Lindt café, Martin Place, individuals commenced their own very personal journey in trying to make sense of the siege both intellectually and emotionally within the context of their existing world view.

How could someone intentionally hold another against their will and threaten their life?

How could such an event occur in a safe setting like a café as people went about their normal life?

How could something like this be allowed to continue for so long and still result in the loss of life of two innocent people? Why wasn’t it resolved sooner and without the loss of life like I often see in the movies?

Is it safe for me to work in the city? To go out in the city?


These are but some of the questions many everyday office-workers are still grappling with. There will also be some individuals whose journey is made more difficult. For those who have experienced traumatic events in the past such as an armed hold up or assault, the siege may trigger distressing memories. Others may know a hostage or be one of the hostages! Others may have been evacuated from a building or in ‘lock down’ to protect them against a very real threat, and this may have caused distress for some people.


Before sharing some tips about what to expect and how to help people should they require support, it is important to remember a few key points:-

  • Humans have a remarkable capacity for resilience! Many people have been through significant challenges in their life, some traumatic, and the fact that they have managed to lead productive and fulfilling work, family and social lives afterwards, is proof of this resilience. The same coping strategies that have helped these people overcome adversity in the past, can be deployed now to reduce the impact of the siege on them.
  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to trauma. It will have different impacts on different individuals and so the best way to support them will also vary.

The science does however does provide us with some general guidelines about what we can expect following a traumatic event like the siege, and how to best support a person should they require help.


To receive the full "Employer Response Post-Siege Incident" white paper, including What to Expect and How to Help following a traumatic event, email info@communicorpgroup.com or call 1300 855 140

Rethinking the Intersection between Work and Life

Posted by David Burroughs on Thursday, February 19, 2015.

For those of us who thought we had the work-life balance brief covered, it is time to reconsider.

The boundaries between work and life have never been more blurred than they are today. Our new work norms, including 24/7 digital connectivity, dual-earner households, and the growing use of flexible work arrangements, have left many of us struggling with how to ‘switch off’ from work and ‘show up’ in our personal lives (and vice versa).

While there are many benefits to this new reality, the costs of work-life conflict are high and take a toll on both individuals and their work organisations. Research has demonstrated that work-life conflict is linked to lower job satisfaction, organisational commitment and increased turnover, impaired physical and psychological health, and even higher rates of divorce. Finding innovative ways to help people integrate their work and their life is of strategic importance to organisations intent on attracting and retaining valuable employees.

As organisations seek proactive and protective solutions, it is increasingly understood that the concept of work-life balance is doing more harm than good. The concept of balance, just like the recently debunked myth of multi-tasking, is seen as setting us up for failure. Despite the best intentions, the metaphor of the scales is for many unhelpful. Michael Gilbert says in his post

Good Fences....

In regard to this exploration of “work-life balance,”… we have been using the word “balance” when what we really seem to mean is “boundaries.” Boundaries keep things in their place. Balance suggests the same amount of two things on either side of a scale.

Offering a more sustainable substitute encourages us to rethink the intersection between work and life in terms of what a recent Harvard Business Review article has called ‘boundaries not balance.’ By learning to set healthy limits we empower conscious choice and personal responsibility that improves our lives, making us more effective at work and at home.


To translate this re-think into practice, a three pronged approach is required:

  1. Policies and practices that reflect the changing nature of work and are aligned with both legal obligations and best practice;
  2. Managers and supervisors who are adequately trained to support and model a culture of integration; and
  3. Employees who are given the skills to be able to set healthy limits that are right for them and their work organisations.


BALANCE TO BOUNDARIES

Finding ways to integrate work and life that minimise conflict is of strategic importance to organisations committed to attracting and retaining valuable employees. To help organisations understand better the strategic implications of managing the intersection between Work and Life CommuniCorp have recently released the new workshop "Balance to Boundaries" (delivered under licence from Transitioning Well). This workshop is a great addition to CommuniCorp highly acclaimed workplace mental health and practical resilience training and tools. Details and the workshop outline are available here.


To learn more about CommuniCorp, and our programs, contact us on:

Email info@communicorpgroup.com | Phone 1300 855 140 | Web www.communicorpgroup.com

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