Maintaining a Healthy Work Culture Rachelle L. McTeer ORG/PSY5270 November 14, 2010 Amy Hakim, Ph. D. Abstract A healthy work environment refers to an organization in which people are valued and priority is given to the multiple aspects of the workplace that affect employees’ ability to function well in order to accomplish the goals of the organization. Creating and maintain a healthy work environment is a shared responsibility of everyone in the organization, it is the particular domain of the leadership to attend to this environment, set a proper tone, and initiate practices that promote organizational wellness.
This paper will discuss the importance, components, and effects of a healthy work environment; compare and contrast a healthy environment with a work environment that is not healthy; identify and define common mental disorders; and determine how those mental disorders should be effectively addressed in the workplace. Maintaining a Healthy Work Culture In the world of business, how people within an organization act as members of that organization has an immense influence upon the lives of all individuals and the productivity of the organization.
An important step in understanding the influence that the behavior of people within organizations has on the many aspects of people’s lives is learning about organizational psychology. Studying the human portion of the working environment produces fair-minded plans of implementation to improve workplace conditions and productivity and assist in capitalizing on employee efficiency and satisfaction. As a result, the use of organizational psychology has become a prominent necessity within companies all over the world.
Due to the growing number of competitors providing similar services and stressful expectations of continued success, having an understanding of organizational psychology proves time and again to be one of crucial significance. The organization’s base rests on management’s philosophy, values, vision and goals. This philosophy, values, vision, and goals can be described as the culture of the organization. Leadership is critical to maintaining an organization’s culture. Leaders must set the example by living the elements of the organization’s culture.
It is ever increasingly important that organizations put into place a system that supports employees through change processes, use methods to increase individual and team performance, and efficiently realize business goals. This practice can be known as creating a healthy work place and has been found to be an effective approach contributing to the bottom-line through improving performance, relationships, processes and the well-being of employees. It has been found that organizations that create a healthy culture have a healthy workplace and are more successful in job satisfaction and organizational productivity.
Section One: Healthy Culture vs. Non-Healthy Culture According to the Practice Organization of the American Psychological Association (2010), the overall goal of an organization should be to create a psychologically healthy workplace. Creating such an environment will increase organizational functionality and worker satisfaction. One of the primary responsibilities of strategic leaders is to create and maintain the organizational characteristics that reward and encourage collective effort.
The organization can foster this environment by incorporating employee involvement, creating a work-life balance, encouraging employee growth and development, ensuring health and safety knowledge, and recognizing employees. When the workplace is psychologically healthy there is increased job satisfaction, employee morale, and commitment. Moreover, increases in productivity, a reduction in turnover and absenteeism, better management of stress, and the ability to attract and retain quality employees are results of creating psychologically healthy workplaces.
Creating a healthy workplace gives structure to the organization; organizations will fall apart if they would allow its employees to do their own thing and not have structure. The role of leadership in creating and maintaining a healthy workplace is very concise. The leader must be a visionary, motivator, and have efficient communication skills. specifically, the leaders of organizations must understand the human element involved and watch the details every step of the way. Moreover, the leader must be knowledgeable, responsible, know who can be trusted, and be able to make decisions.
For success and productivity in the workplace the leader must be able to lead with agility and be able to recover swiftly form mistakes. Through proper leadership the organization creates and maintains an environment that achieves the goals that have been defined by the organization. By incorporating employee involvement the organization is making an attempt to create a healthy workplace. Incorporating employee involvement may require the organization to have self managed work teams, employee committee or task forces, continuous improvement teams, decision making teams, and/or employee suggestive forums.
Once the above, or similar, are incorporated the employees have increased job satisfaction, a higher morale, and they are committed to the organization. Moreover, this employee involvement has a benefit for the organization. Satisfied and committed workers have increased productivity; there is a reduction in turnover and absenteeism, therefore leading to enhanced quality of products and services. The organization must acknowledge that have responsibilities and lives outside of the workplace. This acknowledgement is characterized as a work-life balance.
Efforts to create work-life balance may include having flexible work arrangements, providing assistance with childcare, providing eldercare benefits, having access to resources to help employees manage personal finance issues, providing availability of benefits for family members and domestic partners, and by allowing flexibility with leave options beyond those required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Those efforts to improve the work-life balance can improve the morale, increase job satisfaction, and strengthen employee’s commitment to the organization; therefore causing a reduction in absenteeism and turnover.
Conflict between work and life responsibilities can diminish the quality of work and home, so it is very important for the organization to provide a balance between work and home. Specifically, if there is a conflict between work and life responsibilities productivity, absenteeism, and turnover will be affected. Similarly, the organization needs to promote employee growth and development. This encouragement can be accomplished by providing and/or giving access to continuing education courses, proving tuition reimbursement, having career development or counseling services, coaching, mentoring, and/or leadership programs.
Promoting employee growth and development helps the employees expand their knowledge, skills/abilities, and apply those competencies to new situations. Furthermore, this opportunity is beneficial because it increases motivation and satisfaction, helps workers manage stress, enhances organizational effectiveness, and improves work quality. On the contrary, the workers will grow stagnate and possible experience a burnout from working at the same level for so long. If the organization does not see the importance of this element work quality and productivity would decrease.
Ensuring health and safety is another essential element of creating a healthy workplace. Prevention, assessment, and treatment of potential health and safety risks maximize the physical and mental health of employees. For example, the organization may provide trainings and safeguards that address workplace safety and security issues, include efforts to help employees develop a healthy lifestyle, give adequate health insurance, have health screening, provide resources to help employees address life problems, and allow access to health/fitness/recreation facilities.
As a result of incorporating the aforementioned, the organization benefits from greater productivity as well as a reduction in healthcare costs, absenteeism, and accident/injury rates. While on the other hand, an organization that does not address the health and safety concerns may have difficulties with employees that lead to a decrease in productivity due to illness or injury. The final element of creating a healthy workplace is to recognize the employees.
Rewarding employees for their contributions to the organization can increase employee satisfaction, morale, and self-esteem; therefore positively affecting the organization with greater employee engagement, productivity, lower turnover. Moreover, when the employees are recognized the organization has the ability to attract and retain top quality employees. Examples of employee recognition include fair monetary compensation, competitive benefits packages, acknowledgement of contributions and milestones, performance based bonuses/pay increases, employee awards, and recognition ceremonies.
On the contrary, an organization that does not recognize its employees will produce a culture of unhappy employees that will seek employment in other places, therefore increasing turnover. In summary, a healthy workplace is imperative to ensure safety, enhance satisfaction and retention, and maintain the organization’s financial viability. Harter, Schmidt, and Keyes (2003) reviewed the Gallup Studies and found that well-being in the workplace affects the outcome of a business.
They found that behaviors that increase positive emotions lead to clarity of expectations, individual fulfillment in work, a bonding of individuals, ownership for the impact of the company, and learning with a shared mission. Moreover, they concluded that as managers and employees focus on satisfying the basic human needs in the workplace they will increase the opportunity for the success of their organization. Their data showed that workplaces that engaged workers do a better job of keeping employees, satisfying customers, and being financially productive than workplaces that do not engage workers.
According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (2005) “there is evidence that unhealthy work environments contribute to errors, non-productive workers, and stress among workers. Moreover, creating a healthy workplace demonstrates an organization’s ethical responsibility. Without ensuring that the environment is healthy excellence is impossible. Similarly, inattention to the creation of a healthy workplace poses a threat to the success and productivity of the organization. Section Two: Effects of Mental Health Issues in the Workplace Mental health and wellbeing are central to the lives of individuals.
Comparatively, employment plays a significant role in guaranteeing a positive mental and physical state. Being an employed individual in today’s society is beneficial to a person’s wellbeing. In turn, wellbeing at work is a mandatory component to ensure productivity, innovation and efficiency of businesses, and organizations. There is a high prevalence of mental health issues in the general population so the workplace needs to be aware of such mental conditions as well as the type of treatment and/or intervention they can provide to help the workers. In the United States, mental illnesses are the nation’s second leading cause of disability” (Fontaine, 2009, p. 6). However most people are untreated or poorly treated due to a lack of coverage by insurance companies, stigma, the belief that disorders are under personal control, and the complexity of the mental health delivery system fail those in the United States who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness. Depression Depression is a common disorder in the workplace. It is commonly described as a feeling of sadness.
However, it is much more than sadness, it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. When feeling depressed the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting. Depression may come on suddenly, as a result of a traumatic event, or it may grow slowly over months and years. Sometimes there isn’t a cause for depression. What ever the case, a depressed person suffers from a chemical imbalance in their brain and it causes him/her to be more prone to stress.
Depressed individuals may have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; a loss of interest in daily activities; experience weight loss/gain; sleep changes; mood changes, loss of energy; strong feeling of worthlessness/guilt; trouble concentrating; and unexplained aches or pains. Common symptoms of depression in the workplace include decreased productivity, morale problems, lack of cooperation, safety risks/ accidents, absenteeism, frequent statements about being tired all the time, problems with concentration, complaints of unexplained aches and pains, and/or alcohol and drug abuse.
Treatments for depression include education, medication, and therapy. Education means finding out information about depression. Medication may be prescribed by a physician to balance the imbalanced chemicals in your brain; therefore improving the depression. Therapy is needed to addresses the feelings of hopelessness that accompany depression. Second, therapy changes the pessimistic ideas, unrealistic expectations, and overly critical self-evaluations that create depression and sustain it.
Third, therapy changes the areas of the person’s life that are creating significant stress, and contributing to the depression. Finally, therapy is needed to develop better coping skills, and to assist in solving relationship problems. Schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a disorder that can affect anyone. It is the greatest disorder that affects teenagers. When someone is affected by the disorder it is not just that one person that has to learn to deal with it, the families of the patients must also learn to deal with it.
There are many possible causes for the disorder with many doctors believing that there is more than one cause. It has been thought for many years that the main cause is a chemical imbalance in the brain. This could be an imbalance in the number of neurotransmitters and/or an imbalance in the amount of dopamine. However, stress is not thought of as directly causing schizophrenia, but often makes already present symptoms worse. Some doctors feel that schizophrenia might be the result of a slow acting virus since the symptoms can be delayed many years after the first infection.
Another possible cause for the disorder is a genetic disposition. This has yet to be proven but it is thought of as a likely cause since children who have a parent with the disorder have a ten times greater chance of developing the illness than children who have abnormal parents. If both parents have the disorder the chance of their offspring having the disorder jumps to forty times that of an off spring with normal parents. Some times as equally as important as finding what causes a disease is finding what does not cause a disease.
Common symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, hallucinations, grossly impaired speech or movement, social withdrawal, lack of self care, emotional blunting, and a lack of interest in goal directed activities. Treatment for this condition may include prescribed medication, family communication/social skills training, and cognitive behavioral procedures. To deal with this disorder management needs to calmly and accurately identify the problem and then encourage remediation for the worker.
The organizational leaders have the role of educating their managers, encouraging their employees to participate in treatment and/or intervention, and creating an environment where their employees can receive confidential diagnosis and treatment without fear of reprisal. Passive-Aggressive Disorder According to Lyons and Martin (2009) people with passive-aggressive disorder express their “negativistic attitudes and resistance with passive methods such as procrastination, forgetfulness, intentional inefficiency, and stubbornness” (p. 217).
Unlike most personality disorders, passive-aggressive originates solely from observations of work behavior. As it manifests in the workplace, it is disruptive to organizational and interpersonal relationships and can decrease work processes. People with passive aggressive personality disorder, view themselves as self sufficient, yet they fell vulnerable to control and believe that they are misunderstood and unappreciated by others. Someone with this disorder declares they are not treated as they should be because they see others as intrusive, demanding, interfering, controlling, and dominating.
Those thought processes lead them to believe that other people interfere with their own freedom. They expect the worst in everything leading toward anger and hostility. Borderline Personality Disorders Borderline personality disorders (BPD) is defined as a “disorder characterized by a pattern of instability in self image, interpersonal relationships, and mood” (Fontaine, 2009, p. 428). People with BPD have a mixture of symptoms: behaviorally they are impulsive, unpredictable, and manipulative; affectively they are intense and unstable; and cognitively they have an indentify disturbance.
Moreover, the symptoms for this disorder include unstable relationships and emotions, dramatic shifts I the way others are regarded, they hate being alone, have chronic feelings of emptiness, anger, guilt, shame, and/or bitterness, they shift career plans, life goals, and friends frequently, have a depressed mood and are suicidal or practice acts of self-mutilation. Only about two percent of the population is affected by this disorder treatments are readily available.
A person suffering from BPD may take part in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) sessions dealing with interpersonal skills, emotional regulations, problem solving, acceptance and goal setting. Also, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive therapy, and drug therapy are available for those suffering from BPD. Eating Disorders An eating disorder is an illness, rather than a diet, which permeates all aspects of the sufferer’s life. Examples of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating, and binge eating.
Eating disorders can be caused by genetics and/or a variety of environmental factors and influences. Some signs and symptoms include: obsessive exercising, counting of calorie/fat, starvation, restriction of food, self induced vomiting, use of diet pills/laxatives/diuretics, persistent concern with body image, frequent trips to the bathroom immediately after meals, unusual food rituals, making statements of self defeat, hair loss, pale/grey appearance, frequent sore throat, complaints of often feeling cold, bruised/callused knuckles, bloodshot/bleeding eyes, mood swings, and insomnia.
Treatments and interventions that are currently used for eating disorders are therapy/counseling, meeting with a dietician/nutritionist, completing inpatient or outpatient programs, participating in hypnosis, receiving spiritual services and or going on recovery retreats. Other methods include writing in a journal, listening to music, watching the sunset, coloring/painting, taking a long hot bath, going on a vacation, relaxing/meditating, making positive comments.
The organization needs to ensure a workplace with effective interventions/treatments for mental impairments. If someone is suspected to have this disorder, the organizational leader needs to calmly and accurately identify the problem, document everything, and then encourage remediation for the worker. It is necessary for organizational leaders to have knowledge about the disorder. Those behaviors associated with the disorder affect others in the workplace as well as disrupting the organizational goals..
Leaders in the workplace can help the workers with mental health issues by training their managers to recognize the symptoms and deal with them in a compassionate, but direct manner; teaching their employees about the symptoms and effects of mental illness; creating an environment where their employees can receive confidential diagnosis and treatment without fear of reprisal; and providing help to employees with mental health issues through an in-house Occupational Physician or an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). Conclusions Employees are dependent on organizations that function in a healthy manner.
In a healthy work environment professionals use skilled communication styles to achieve positive outcomes. These environments are healing, empowering environments that have been correlated with employee engagement and organizational commitment. These environments are characterized by a high level of trust between management and employees; by employees who treat each other in a respectful manner; by an organizational culture that supports skilled communication and collaboration; and by a climate in which employees feel emotionally and physically safe (Shirey, 2006).
In conclusion, it is important for an organization to create and maintain a healthy workplace because organizations that create a healthy culture have a healthy workplace and are more successful in job satisfaction and organizational productivity. References American Association of Critical Care Nurses. (2005) Standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments. Retrieved November 12, 2010 from http://www. aacn. org/WD/HWE/Docs/HWEStandards. pdf APA Practice Organization (2010). Psychologically healthy workplace program. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from http://www. phwa. rg/resources/creatinghealthyworkplace Fontaine, K. (2009). Mental health nursing. (6th edition) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Harter, J. K. , Schmidt, F. L. , & Keyes, C. L. M. (2003). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: A review of the Gallup studies. In Keyes, C. L. M. , & Haidt, J. (Eds. ), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 205-224). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (EBSCOhost/PsycBOOKS Document ID: 10. 1037/10594-009). Lyons, C. & Martin, B. (2009). Abnormal psychology: Clinical and scientific perspectives. 3rd edition) Redding, CA: BVT Publishing MyEDhelp. com (2006). Eating disorders in the workplace. Retrieved October 25, 2010 http://www. therenewcenter. com/PDF/Eating%20disorders%20and%20the%20workplace. pdf Shirey, M. R. (2006). Authentic leaders creating healthy work environments for nursing practice. [Review]. American Journal of Critical Care, 15(3), 256–267. Third Age (2010). Depression in the workplace: Tips for managers. Retrieved November 12, 2010 from http://www. thirdage. com/workplace-health/depression-in-the-workplace-tips-for-managers#ixzz1336zYtUl