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Protecting psychosocial safety in the aged care industry

Published on
24 May 2022
Category
Blog
Protecting psychosocial safety in the aged care industry
Why Psychosocial Safety is particularly important in Aged Care homes. 

My father was recently (very recently) a resident in an aged care home. Having worked in a home throughout university, and as a change management practitioner I was looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference, any difference for staff in this industry who are often over worked, under paid and from my perspective, misunderstood. 

Introducing Psychosocial Safety.

Yes, it’s an absolute mouthful.  As a consultant with Escient, I was engaged on a project with a large, aged care provider and it was here that I quickly learned what it means if psychosocial safety is overlooked.  And, I believe we have all seen this impact in the devastating aged care reporting through covid. 

Psychosocial Safety is about identifying psychosocial hazards in the workplace.  Psychosocial hazards are “factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of psychosocial hazards might include poor supervisor support or high job demands.” https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/psychosocial-hazards-contributing-work-related-stress 

Organisations have a Work Health and Safety (WHS) legal obligation to manage these hazards in the workplace.  But first, you need to assess them – which is what we did for our aged care client (and subsequent clients since).  This assessment was high level, don’t get me wrong – we are not a WHS organisation- but we had spent several hours interviewing people across the organisation, observing them in their workplace and conducting surveys, and with all the information we had collected, it became noticeably clear there were significant risks across the organisation. 

From the information we collected, our experience with the aged care sector, and using a government provided psychosocial risk assessment tool, we were able to determine the psychosocial risk level for certain roles across the organisation.   In fact, we identified the three most common hazards – low job control, high job demands and poor organisational change management.  

Whether you’re familiar with the sector or not, I’m sure these findings don’t come as much of a surprise to you.  We were, however, very surprised that for a sector that is undergoing so much change, and will be for a long time to come, how little (if any) change management occurred.  But then again, with staff stretched to their full capacity, maybe it’s no surprise at all. 

Addressing Psychosocial Safety in the workplace

Identifying these as risks is a great first step (for anyone) but action should not stop there. Organisations need to conduct regular formal and informal assessments to create targeted action plans but there are several other key and simple activities that will have a significant positive impact on the organisation with immediate effect.   

  1. Implement a dedicated change resource role 
  1. Take the time to understand the impact of the change and the communication and learning needs of your staff- you may think you are delivering information but there may be a hurdle to them receiving it. 
  1. Remember to talk about the ‘why’ change is occurring; ‘how’ that will impact people, process, technology, and culture; and finally, the ‘what’ 
  1. Check in regularly with staff – through various means – and ensure you provide extra support for those struggling with the change 
  1. Discuss and share feedback – you will receive some gems from those on the front line. 
     

What is it that you could change to minimise these psychosocial risks on your people and through this provide your clients with better care? 

Author: Kylie Davies, Managing Consultant (former) and friend of Escient

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