The occupational health and safety industry often puts a large emphasis on safeguarding the physical safety of individuals. After all, the physical safety of your workplace practices can make or break your business. However, an aspect that is often overlooked is the concept of workplace wellness. This has to do with the mental wellbeing of your employees and contractors. Ultimately, you cannot expect individuals to operate at their fullest capacity if they are suffering from mental distress. Workplace wellness plans are commonly more challenging to develop and initiate due to a lack of awareness, stigmas of mental health, and the wide range of circumstances that individuals face. The effects of the global pandemic saw an increase in mental distress witnessed in people, a disruption to daily lives, and put a strain on mental health resources. Consequently, the pandemic also forced the occupational health and safety industry to cast a wider net of proactive solutions to mental wellness, and transformed the stance and perceptions of mental health in the workplace. No matter the circumstance, it is essential that hiring organizations have some kind of workplace wellness plan in place to assist their employees and contractors and set them up for success. Read on to learn more about three different ways to incorporate wellness into your contractor safety management plan.
Develop a line of communication between you and your contractors/employees
Both in physical and mental safety, establishing an open line of communication is the first line of defense in mitigating potential risk. Inequality in communication is a commonly cited challenge that employees and contractors face. This causes a barrier between them and upper-level management that can cause a strain on business operations and slow down productivity. Having transparent communication allows employees and third parties to freely express their thoughts and concerns in a manner in which they feel comfortable and in a way in which they feel like their concerns are heard. Developing honest communication methods helps hiring organizations maintain visibility over the wellbeing of the people on their worksite and grants them valuable insight into what they can do to assist in improving workplace wellness. A few ways safety managers can implement workplace wellness programs into their strategy are:
- Ensuring that contractors and employees have easy and open access to communicate with upper management to voice concerns.
- Ensuring that they nurture a positive culture around mental health topics in the workplace.
- Contribute to dismantling the stigma around mental health challenges.
- Consult contractors and employees on how to make a workplace safe, inclusive, and approachable for all.
Address mental health challenges and circumstances
Acknowledgement is a very crucial step in the process of improving workplace wellness. More importantly, it is important to acknowledge and identify the diversity in lived experiences and how that can differentiate and bring on unique circumstances for each individual. Oftentimes, contractors and employees may feel disconnected not only due to their mental wellbeing struggles, but also due to the added challenge of not being able to communicate said issues to their superiors. This leads to a domino effect in which mental health begins to affect company operations by disrupting productivity, contributing to lower workforce morale, and increasing the likelihood of risk. A few circumstances that may bring on these effects are:
- Personal/family issues
- Sickness/medical issues
- Shared circumstances (such as the global pandemic)
- Distress from physical injury
Getting acquainted with your workforce’s unique circumstances will enable you to outline a personalized plan with each contractor or employee to properly assess how to move forward in a safe manner.
Address job difficulties and burnout
Psychological wellbeing is at many times directly related to the physical output of labor. Each individual may have a unique and different threshold to what kind of labor they are willing to take on, as well as the amount. Nonetheless, contractors and employees should be granted the freedom and comfort to voice their thoughts on job specific difficulties. In light of addressing said difficulties, upper management should then take the initiative to speak with their contractors and employees to determine a plan to how they can alleviate those difficulties in a manner that preserves mental wellbeing while not severing productivity related to business operations. This allows contractors, internal staff, and management to reach a common understanding in what is expected on a worksite, and what measures are in place to ensure that tasks are completed safely and successfully.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of workplace efficiency is the ability to sustainably maintain a certain level of productivity. However, achieving a healthy rate of productivity also means that an organization must also sustain a healthy relationship with their workforce. Burnout is an unfortunate, real, and common occurrence that EHS managers must account for. Furthermore, burnout is one of the leading causes of injuries and onsite incidents. Situations like this push workers past their threshold of what they are able to handle and lead them to complete tasks without safety in mind. To mitigate any potential risk, EHS managers must first address three things:
- Address how your contractors and employees can avoid and delay burnout.
- Identify whether factors contributing to burnout are internal or external.
- Implement a course of action for workers when burnout does occur.
Using these three factors as a baseline to how you identify burnout in your organization will help you in your decision making process down the line. Addressing burnout prior to it occurring is key in ensuring that your organization remains compliant and that onsite workers are conducting labor at the safest possible level.
To conclude, workplace wellness goes hand-in-hand with contractor safety, as well as an organization’s safety practices as a whole. It is up to EHS managers and upper management to create a safe and healthy atmosphere in the workplace. This can be achieved through different means such as establishing an open line of communication at an organizational level, acknowledging the unique circumstances that individuals face, and addressing and planning for contractor/employee burnout. The awareness of workplace wellness will only continue to grow as organizations globally are acclimatizing to a modern social landscape in which mental wellbeing is valued, discussed, and acted upon.