Addressing psychosocial risks to support return to good work

Returning to and recovering at work is an important part of rehabilitation following a psychological injury. It helps with recovery, prevents relapse, and provides individuals with appropriate social connections and support mechanisms. However, when an employee returns to work, following a psychological injury, working environments must be safe and free from psychological harm to prevent further risk to their mental health and wellbeing. 

Addressing psychosocial hazards is a critical factor in supporting return to good work. Psychosocial hazards are factors within the workplace that impact the psychological health of employees both positively and negatively. If addressed and designed well, psychosocial factors are protective and contribute to a mentally healthy workplace. If ignored or inadequately accounted for, these factors present a risk to employee mental health in the workplace. Work design, culture, demands, relationships, support, and practices are all key factors when it comes to how work-related psychological injuries are caused, prevented, and managed. Addressing and managing the psychosocial risk factors that are present in the workplace is critical in identifying sources of workplace stress and is key to creating a psychologically safe workplace that is supportive of recovery. 

How can workplaces address psychosocial risk to support return to good work?   

  1. Identify psychosocial risks. Identify which psychosocial risks are impacting employee mental health and wellbeing. Review psychological injury claims. What is the nature of the injury, the reason for the injury, and psychosocial risk factors that contributed to / caused the injury? Culture surveys, critical incident reports, complaints and investigation data, absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover rates and exit interviews, EAP usage and HR/WHS systems, policies, and procedures are also helpful to review and analyse to clearly identify psychosocial risk factors that may be present. 
  1. Assess psychosocial risks. Assess and prioritise risks. Assess the person on claims and seek to understand whether these risks are company-wide or relevant to a specific group. 
  1. Control psychosocial risks. Implement control measures to eliminate or minimise risk. Tertiary interventions, also known as the recovery strategies, can help to support recovery at work and return to work by ensuring workplaces can accommodate to meet the needs of injured workers. Some examples may include:   
  • Ensure job tasks are within workers’ capabilities   
  • Make adjustments to the working environment to accommodate workers’ needs   
  • Establish working hours that are within workers’ capacity.   
  1. Monitor and review. Implement and embed strategies to monitor the efficacy of interventions. Are these having the desired impact or are further modifications need to be made to support recovery and return to work outcomes?  

Psychosocial risk reviews 

Psychosocial risk reviews are another helpful tool designed to help manage the risks associated with psychological injury in the workplace. It involves conducting a systematic review of an organisation’s psychosocial risks, gap analysis, and making recommendations. This can support return to good work by ensuring workplaces are mentally healthy and suitable to accommodate the needs of an injured worker recovering from psychological injury. Our sister organisation, the Centre for Corporate Health, delivers psychosocial risk reviews which can support return to good work and ensure workplaces meet best practice guidelines and are up to date with the latest WHS legislations and amendments to support the wellbeing of their people.   

For more information on supporting the return to good work, contact Resilia, a best-practice psychological rehabilitation provider, to see how we can support you in addressing psychosocial risks and creating a mentally healthy workplace that supports return to good work.