On a global scale, health and safety at work has increasingly improved in recent years. Based on an ethical and moral commitment and the shared premise that no one should become ill or injured from going to work, workplaces continue to take responsibility for the health and safety of their workforce. When we talk about health and safety in the workplace, we often think of accident prevention and improved physical working conditions. However, there is another aspect to health and safety that we have come to understand as equally important as the physical working conditions surrounding the work environment: Mental wellbeing and the psycho-social work environment.
An increasing demand for focus on wellbeing in the workplace
Wellbeing is a concept that may be difficult to wrap your head around: we use it in various ways in connection with both mental health and physical health, and its definition differs from culture to culture. The official Vision Zero Guide on Wellbeing offers inspiration to what wellbeing might cover in your workplace and that is an important feature of the guide in my opinion.
Wellbeing has been a central part of the Vision Zero mindset always, but we are now experiencing an increased focus on mental health and the importance of a healthy psycho-social work environment. This underlines an acute need for a guide that focuses solely on wellbeing.
Mental health and wellbeing are key trends especially for the younger generations that make up the modern workforce of today. This generation of employees have a more holistic approach to their work life and their mindset is different from what we have seen in the past: The modern workforce wants their hours spent at work to be productive, to have purpose and to be meaningful. They value a healthy workplace culture, they want to be healthy, and they want to thrive at work.
Through online employee workplace reviews and evaluations, companies see themselves being rated on various parameters such as work-life balance, leadership, collaboration, and workplace culture and this further adds weight to the tendency, as it prompts companies to strategically prioritise mental health and wellbeing if they want to attract and retain employees.
How to use the Vision Zero Wellbeing Guide
The Vision Zero Guide on Wellbeing provides different definitions of wellbeing and encourages you to work systematically with wellbeing and mental health in the workplace the same way we already do with safety. The same processes, structures, and systematics that you are already familiar with are applicable to themes concerning mental health and wellbeing:
Many workplaces conduct risk assessments on their safety work to gain perspective and possibly predict potential risks in relation to e.g., machines or production lines and based on the risk assessments they implement preventive measures. The exact same procedure can be applied to wellbeing and the psycho-social work environment. This could be by considering the potential risk factors that arise when you introduce new IT procedures or implement new systems.
If you are experiencing absence due to stress in a team, you can analyse the situation the same way you would analyse a work accident by investigating the accident until you find the root cause.
The wellbeing guide helps you getting started with this systematic approach by inviting you to consider your organisation’s current prevention level with Human House’s Vision Zero Enterprise Maturity Scale Model – a tool that prompts reflection and dialogue and can be put into action in various ways – e.g., in the form of discussions on management level or through questionnaire surveys. It is a vital first step, as it will make up your proactive leading indicator from which you can define your goals and ambitions.
My advice for anyone who wants to get the most out of this important guide is to start out by following these three initial steps:
- Define what wellbeing is in your organisation
- Determine your current position on the Vision Zero Enterprise Maturity Scale Model
- Find out which of the 7 Golden Rules you would like to work on first. Consider how to measure your progress with proactive leading indicators along the way to see if your work pays off.