What can I learn from this page?
An overview of the psychosocial health template
Who is this guide for?
Account Admins, Survey Admins, Survey Creators
At Culture Amp we are committed to building a better world of work, and recognise that the entire employee experience has a meaningful impact on how an employee thinks, feels and behaves. A healthy and supportive work environment has a positive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, while an unhealthy work environment can have a significant negative impact on health and wellbeing.
To support companies to ensure they are creating and maintaining a healthy work environment, Culture Amp created the Psychosocial Health template. This template will help you identify and monitor common psychosocial hazards that may exist in your workplace, supporting your efforts to manage the risks of psychosocial hazards as is reasonably practicable.
This article will cover:
What are psychosocial hazards and risks?
According to Comcare (The Australian National Work Health and Safety, and Workers’ Compensation Authority), psychosocial hazards are “...aspects of work that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm”. Although each workplace may have a unique collection of potential psychosocial hazards, common psychosocial hazards identified by Safe Work Australia include:
Excessively high or low job demands (the mental, physical and emotional effort required to do the job)
Low job control (little control over how or when tasks are completed)
Poor support (lack of support from peers, managers, and/or the organization)
Lack of role clarity (lack of understanding/alignment of what is required to be successful in the role)
Poor organizational change management (lack of consultation prior to changes that impact the role and/or changes that are poorly executed)
Inadequate reward and recognition (perceived imbalance between effort required to do the role and reward offered by employer)
Poor organizational justice (inconsistent application of policies and procedures and unfair decision making processes)
Traumatic events or material (witnessing, investigating or being exposed to potentially traumatic events)
Remote or isolated work (isolated from the assistance of others due to location, time or nature of the work)
Poor physical environment (exposure to unpleasant, poor quality, or hazardous working conditions or environments)
Harmful behaviours (violence and aggression, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, and conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions).
Exposure to some psychosocial hazards in isolation may not create a psychosocial risk. However, when psychosocial hazards are combined with other hazards, and an absence of appropriate supports or safeguards, this can create or increase the risk of harm.
Why should companies care about psychosocial hazards and risks?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of the global population of working-age adults have a mental disorder at any given time. Additionally it is estimated that 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety, which represents a cost of US $1 trillion per year in lost productivity (WHO).
By proactively managing psychosocial hazards, organizations can create a healthier, more supportive, and productive work environment. For example, organizations that prioritize wellbeing have 8x higher engagement (World Economic Forum), are 220% more likely to meet their financial targets (Josh Bersin), and twice as likely to be considered “great places to work” (Josh Bersin).
In addition, research from the Australian Human Rights Commission claims that providing a mentally healthy workplace can benefit everyone, by:
Reducing costs related to worker absence and high worker turnover;
Minimizing stress levels and increasing worker morale;
Avoiding discrimination claims; and,
Avoiding litigation and fines for breaches of health and safety laws.
In Australia, changes to the Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws in 2023 reinforce the legal obligations for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). These changes mean all PCBU’s are now legally obligated to ensure their workplaces are safe and healthy for all workers, and that the risk of psychosocial hazards is being effectively managed.
Culture Amp’s template for Psychosocial Health
Based on the most common psychosocial hazards outlined by Safe Work Australia, we developed a robust template designed to provide confidential workplace data that can inform your approach to managing psychosocial risks. The template provides an opportunity to consult workers about how they are feeling overall (wellbeing) and their experiences related to the most common psychosocial hazards and risk factors that can occur in the workplace.
About the template
The term "psychosocial health" is used to encompass a broader understanding of the factors affecting employees' overall wellbeing and mental health within the workplace. It acknowledges that psychosocial hazards alone do not tell the whole story, and recognises that the overall employee experience can have both positive and negative impacts on their wellbeing and mental health.
To better grasp this concept, we can envision psychosocial health as a continuum. On one end of the continuum, we have psychosocial hazards, which refer to aspects of the workplace experience that can potentially cause harm. On the opposite end, we find psychosocial boosters, which are elements that have the potential to enhance wellbeing, engagement, and productivity.
Therefore, when we refer to "psychosocial health," we are considering the entire spectrum of an employee's potential workplace experience. This broader perspective allows us to go beyond solely mitigating and controlling psychosocial hazards. Instead, we can strive to create a thriving workplace by actively focusing on enhancing psychosocial boosters.
Wellbeing as an outcome
To understand the impact of the workplace on psychosocial health, our outcome measure or index can be used to give an indication of overall wellbeing, and as an early indicator of burnout. It is measured using 5 statements:
I usually have enough energy to overcome challenges at work;
I tend to bounce back quickly after challenging times at work;
Overall I feel productive in my work;
I generally feel positive towards work at Hooli;
I rarely feel overstressed by my work;
While the questions focused on wellbeing are not designed to diagnose any specific condition, they are designed to cover the three core elements of burnout as defined by the World Health organization (WHO) as: ‘feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion (resilience), increased mental distance or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job (positive feelings towards work), and reduced professional efficacy (feeling productive)’. This measure can therefore provide some early warning signs or indication of the potential risk of burnout in your employee group.
In the same way that you can not just make someone feel more engaged, you can not simply increase an employee’s wellbeing. Rather, you need to understand psychosocial indicators that are impacting your employees’ overall wellbeing and, importantly, how you can influence those indicators to increase their level of wellbeing.
The psychosocial health template will allow you to gain a deeper insight into the following areas:
Job demands refers to the level of mental, physical and emotional effort that is required to do the job. Job demands that are either too high or too low can be a psychosocial hazard.
The template measures physical, mental, and emotional job demands.
Examples include having too much or too little work to complete, working long hours without breaks, not having the right training or skills to complete an allocated task, or supporting distressed individuals.
Work design refers to the way our work is organized, or more specifically how our tasks and responsibilities are designed. Poor work design can be a psychosocial hazard.
The template measures perceived levels of job control, meaningful work, job clarity and conflict.
There are different job design elements, including how much control we have over our tasks (job control), how clear we are on what we need to do (job clarity), consistent task assignment (low job conflict), and how meaningful we find our work (work engagement).
organizational Practices refers to the organizational systems, processes and ways of working that can impact an employee’s wellbeing (booster or hazard).
The template measures perceptions of organizational justice, experience of change/transformation, and adequacy of rewards/recognition.
Examples of organizational practices that can act as a psychosocial hazard, include perceived unfairness or inequity across the organization (organizational justice), poorly handled change, or limited reward/recognition.
Support at Work
Support at Work can act to buffer against workplace stress and hazards. Support can be sought from a variety of sources, including leader/manager, colleagues, or additional organizational-wide programs/initiatives.
The template measures manager, colleague, and organizational support.
Examples of support at work may include a manager checking in regularly, a colleague that you can rely on to solve problems, or the ability to access wellbeing resources offered by the organization.
Psychological safety refers to the belief that employees feel that it is safe to speak up without fear of humiliation, rejection or punishment.
The template measures perceptions of inclusiveness, and safety to speak up.
Examples of psychological safety include, feeling safe to speak up, voicing concerns about health/safety/wellbeing, feeling that you will not be punished for sharing contrary views, and feeling safe to share true perspectives and self.
There are inappropriate behaviors that may occur in the workplace that increase the risk of stress and psychological distress.
The template measures bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, relationship conflict, and workplace violence.
Example of inappropriate behaviours in the workplace include bullying, harassment or sexual harassment, relationship conflict or persistent disagreements, exposure to violence or aggression.
Additional Risk Factors
The research suggests that employees with additional experiences at work may be at a higher risk for experiencing stress or psychological distress.
The template measures remote/isolated work, exposure to potentially traumatic situations or materials, or poor work environments.
Examples of additional risk factors include employees working in remote or isolated environments, employees who are exposed to potentially traumatic situations or content, or those working in poor physical work environments.
When to run a Psychosocial Health survey
The psychosocial health template will provide complimentary workforce data to guide your identification and assessment of psychosocial hazards, and provide a clear mechanism for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of your approach.
You can roll out a psychosocial health survey at any time. However, it is important to highlight that conducting a psychosocial health survey is not, and should not be, the only step in your approach to managing psychosocial risks. For further guidance on managing psychosocial hazards, check out the model code of practice published by Safe Work Australia and our guide to advancing your approach.
Before conducting surveys and/or tools to measure psychosocial hazards, Culture Amp recommends that companies seek independent professional advice on their duties and obligations under the laws in their jurisdictions, and align their data collection methodologies accordingly. It is also important to ensure that you have the appropriate resources and support systems in place to take action following the collection of data related to psychosocial hazards, as controlling or mitigating the potential risks is critical towards creating a supportive work environment. Check out Partners who can help.
Considerations when using the survey
Customizing the template to your organization
To accurately assess psychosocial hazards within your organization, it is often necessary to customize the survey questions to reflect your unique culture and employee experience. By tailoring the questions, you can effectively capture the specific hazards that are relevant to your workforce. Here are some practical recommendations for contextualizing the survey:
Remove Irrelevant Items:
Identify and eliminate survey questions that measure constructs or experiences that are unlikely to be applicable to your employees and/or context. For instance, if your organization has not undergone any significant organizational changes in the past 12 months, it would be prudent to exclude questions related to such changes.
Add Custom items:
To gain deeper insights into the psychosocial hazards impacting your employees, consider incorporating custom questions. These additional questions should address specific constructs that you anticipate being highly relevant to your workforce. For example, if you operate in the healthcare industry, it would be valuable to include more comprehensive inquiries regarding employees' interactions with patients and the public. This could involve exploring their perceptions of existing controls and evaluating their effectiveness in mitigating potential hazards.
Additional branching is recommended for the psychosocial health template to provide further detail related to the experience of inappropriate behaviors and exposure to risk factors in the workplace. This additional level of detail can provide insights related to severity of exposure, reporting, and utilization of supports. To help build additional branching for the psychosocial template, check out this guidance for psychosocial health branching or learn more about branching here.
By customizing the survey in this manner, you can gather more relevant and actionable information about the psychosocial hazards that your employees experience. This approach enables you to address these concerns more effectively and implement targeted interventions to improve the well-being of your workforce. It is important to note that while customization is best practice, maintaining a consistent measurement approach over time is also necessary to track changes. This ensures valid comparisons and benchmarking within your organization.
Full survey or subset
You may consider running a dedicated psychosocial health survey to support your approach towards managing psychosocial risks. When you ask the same questions over time, you can track changes and monitor the effectiveness of your implemented controls.
You may choose to create a factor or embed key questions from the template into another, broader survey, such as an Engagement survey. This approach is recommended for identifying specific hazards and/or monitoring specific hazards over time.
Attributed vs non attributed
When choosing between attributed and unattributed surveys for assessing psychosocial hazards, it's crucial to understand the key differences.
Attributed surveys link each response to an employee record, allowing for personalized survey links, tracking response status, and accurate participation results. This enables identification of issues and analysis of results across various layers of the organization. Additionally, confidentiality is protected through minimum reporting group size, which ensures that results are reported in aggregate and no individual response can be easily identified.
Unattributed surveys, on the other hand, lack individual connections and use a common link for all participants. While simpler to set up, they have drawbacks. Multiple responses from the same individual can't be prevented, and participant demographics must be asked in the survey increasing length and may be inconsistently answered.
Considering the need to identify issues and analyze data by employee demographics, attributed surveys are strongly recommended. They provide tracking, communication management, and accurate data analysis while maintaining confidentiality through aggregate reporting and minimum reporting group size.
Referral to wellbeing resources and support services
To ensure comprehensive support for employee wellbeing and facilitate easy access to resources, it’s recommended that you integrate links to relevant wellbeing resources, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and formal reporting channels directly within the survey. This should be accompanied by a statement reinforcing the confidential nature of the survey, and direction to these resources as a means of accessing follow up support or to lodge a formal report.
Completing the psychosocial health survey is just the first step in creating a healthier and more supportive work environment. To drive effective action and reduce risks associated with identified hazards, organizations can utilize the survey insights in the following ways:
Informing Risk Assessment and Register:
The survey findings can serve as a valuable input for conducting a formal risk assessment and creating a register of psychosocial hazards. This involves analyzing the data to identify areas of concern, evaluating their impact and likelihood, and prioritizing them for mitigation efforts. By integrating the survey results into the risk assessment process, organizations can ensure a comprehensive approach to managing psychosocial hazards that takes into account the voice of employees.
Utilizing Culture Amp/Unmind Inspirations to Take Action:
Culture Amp has partnered with Unmind to develop a range of inspirations, which act as resources designed to support organizations in taking action on the specific hazards identified in the survey. These inspirations draw on best practice interventions and offer practical recommendations for addressing the identified challenges. By leveraging these inspirations, organizations can implement targeted interventions and initiatives to mitigate the risks and improve employee wellbeing.
Reporting Insights and Findings:
When sharing the insights and findings from the survey with the broader workforce, it is essential to handle the sensitive nature of the content while still driving effective action. Transparent and inclusive communication is key. organizations can consider aggregating the data to protect individual confidentiality while providing a high-level overview of the results. By focusing on key themes and trends, organizations can highlight areas that require attention, share the actions planned to address them, and encourage open dialogue and collaboration to drive positive change.