It takes more than the perks of a health club membership or a lucrative 401(k) to produce a high-performing workplace today. Psychological health must also be ingrained in the corporate culture.

“The emphasis in recent years on employee wellness is a step in the right direction, but the psychological factors are often overlooked,” says Dr. David Ballard, the head of the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”   

But according to a survey from the APA, there’s a level of mistrust in the employee and employer equation. While almost two-thirds of employed adults feel their organizations treat them fairly, one in three reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them and nearly a quarter said they don’t trust their employer.

The role of trust

“This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” adds Ballard. “Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employee’s well-being and job performance.”                                    

Another important reason to be cognizant of mental health in the workplace is the need to manage stress. Those who were polled by APA indicated stress gets piled on from a perception of low salaries with little advancement potential, unclear job expectations, job insecurity and long hours.

The role of stress

Stress doesn’t only damage employees’ psyche, employee under duress could put overall safety in jeopardy. “I have conducted research,” explains Dr. Leslie B. Hammer, professor of psychology at Portland State University and Director of the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety, and Health, “that shows a strong relationship between the experience of family-to-work conflict and safe compliance. Additionally, stress can impact safety through negative coping, for example, it can lead to drinking that may then impact safety.”  

In addition to the typical health and wellness offerings, some of the remedies include involving employees in decision making, providing avenues to expand knowledge and skills, adding programs to facilitate work-life balance such as flexible work arrangements and recognizing employees for their contributions to the organization’s success.

“We are investigating many ways that workplaces can change the environment through things like supervisory training to be more supportive of workers, or changing the job to provide more control to the worker that in turn will decrease stress and in turn improve safety,” concludes Hammer.