Healthy Living in the North

Psychological health and safety in the workplace

Stretch break in an office

Your work environment affects you and you affect your work environment. How do you feel when you start your workday? What about when it ends?

Everyone who has attended school (or who has a child who attends school) can probably think of examples of how the school environment can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. A child attending kindergarten for the first time may have tummy aches which stem from anxieties around being in a new environment with new people. An older child or teenager may feel depressed or self-conscious about whether they measure up to their peers, or their ability to keep up with academic pressures. However, did you know that the workplace environment and our relationships within it similarly affect us as adults? October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month and it’s a great time to look at our workplaces.

Take a few moments to reflect or journal, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel (emotionally/mentally/physically) as I’m about to start my workday? Do I look forward to going to work, or do I dread it?
  • How do I feel when I have finished my workday? (e.g., proud, stressed out, frustrated, energized)
  • What is it about work that makes me feel this way? (e.g., work tasks, co-workers, clients, physical work environment, work shifts or hours, pay, supervisor)
  • Do I notice similar thoughts, feelings, or actions in other people at work?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in positive ways?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in negative ways?
  • In what areas could I use some support? (e.g., conflict resolution skills, physical health, emotional health)
  • What can I do to make work a better place for everyone?

Your work environment affects you

If you are part of a healthy work environment, it probably contributes to your overall well-being. For example, if you enjoy work on a day-to-day basis you likely feel enthusiastic and energized about the work you do and have good relationships with those around you. As a result, when you come home at the end of your workday, you probably have energy to be present with your family/friends/pets, have hobbies and activities outside of work, and exude happiness to those around you.

However, if your work environment is unhealthy, it may be a stressor for you. You may feel tired, frustrated, or burned out and this, in turn, can affect your health and home life in a negative way.

You affect your work environment

You go to work with your own attitudes, patterns of relating to others, home-life stressors, and individual level of wellness. These affect others in the workplace. Return to your earlier reflection and choose one thing you’d like to change or follow up on. Plan one action you can take to move in that direction. Challenge a family member/co-worker/friend to do the same! Talking about mental health and wellness is one of the best ways to promote psychological health and safety in the workplace.

In the past few years, there has been increasing recognition that our work environments affect all aspects of our lives and well-being and that healthy, happy employees are more productive and do higher quality work. Canada is the first country in the world to create a standard to guide employers in creating psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. For more information, visit Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

For personal mental health assessments and tips, check out the Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Meter.


A version of this story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You.

 

Courtenay Kelliher

About Courtenay Kelliher

Courtenay grew up in Vanderhoof, and completed her BScN at UNBC in Terrace. After a few years of travelling around Western Canada and living in the sweltering Okanagan, she has happily returned to the north to work as an Advisor with Workplace Health & Safety Strategic Directions. Living in Terrace, Courtenay enjoys spending her spare time on outdoor adventures with her fur children and volunteering with the Canadian Ski Patrol and local fire department. When indoors, she can usually be found destroying her kitchen while cooking up new creations to share with friends and social media, with the hopes of inspiring others to prepare their meals from scratch. Courtenay is passionate about occupational health and safety, and loves that her job allows her to work at keeping employees safe so that they can enjoy their hobbies in their spare time as well.

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