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Work policies that support psychological safety and flexible workplace 

Safety in the workplace is something so incredibly important to me and minimising the stigma around mental health needs to happen now. 

From my own personal experiences to what I have heard and witnessed from friends, family, fellow athletes and colleagues – mental health is something that should be actively supported and prioritised rather than put on the backburner. 

As the Mental Health Ambassador for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, it is my mission to raise awareness for mental health in the workplace and the importance of looking after yourself and your staff. 

I want to motivate Aussie business owners to think more about their mental health, to ensure kindness and respect is a core aspects of their professional community and for them to lead their teams with psychological safety and flexibility at work. 

As a business owner myself, I know managing your mental health is equally as crucial as managing physical safety while at work. That’s why it is important for employers to create a healthy workplace that supports mental health, eliminates safety risks and is free of stigma and discrimination. 

To help other business owners, I’ve compiled this list of seven work policies that support psychological safety and a flexible workplace… 

Leadership commitment

Leaders and managers should visibly demonstrate and communicate the workplace’s commitment to building a mentally healthy workplace. This shows workers that positive mental health is essential and encourages them to engage in positive practices. 

I’ve always taken leadership seriously from many perspectives. As a leader, I feel as though it’s my priority to set the tone for my business in terms of customer service and respect towards other staff. Leadership is about being approachable to all team members without prejudice and being accessible to all staff needs. The importance of leadership should never be taken for granted, nor should it be threatening towards employees. A positive environment is a key to great leadership. 

Supportive and capable managers and leaders

Supportive and capable managers and leaders with the knowledge and skills to effectively communicate, empower their team, manage their stress and emotions, and manage difficult situations when they arise. 

Supportive and capable managers and leaders have effective strategies in place to support staff from a personal and working perspective. Having an environment that prioritises support and understanding should instil confidence amongst staff that presents a workplace that encourages

conversations when required. To me, a supportive leader is approachable and fair with every staff member. 

Work policies

Work policies that support psychological safety and flexible workplace practices that formalise the workplace’s stance, demonstrating to workers the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace and helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions. 

These policies are essential to the growth of any business, no matter how big or small. A supportive workplace, from a psychological perspective, promotes a positive environment in which staff should feel safe within. From a mental health perspective, a flexible workplace is essential for all workers. 

Respectful and dignified workplace interactions

Respectful and dignified workplace interactions that acknowledge workers’ contributions and efforts to create a workplace culture where everyone feels valuable. Encouraging this positive and safe environment reassures individuals of their worth and creates a supportive space to work, collaborate and thrive. 

Respect and dignity are also a priority in my workplace. There’s no room for devaluing others. This behaviour encourages a negative environment and defeats the purpose of the importance of well-being. 

Open communication

Open, honest and effective communication fosters a culture and space for respectful and transparent consultation and communication, helping workers to talk openly, express ideas and resolve conflicts. 

This form of communication has always promoted harmony in the workplace. Every team member should feel confident to express their thoughts and ideas without feeling they will be judged or criticised for their input or opinions. Individuals who don’t feel they can be honest must already feel they can’t be open in their particular workplace. It’s also been important to me that staff feel they can be open about any aspect of their lives without feeling like I will judge them. 

Organisational awareness

Build organisational awareness of psychological health and safety as this can increase practice and early intervention and can help in reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Increasing awareness can lead to further autonomy and collaboration between employees and employers, and contribute to a safe space, positive mental thinking and organisational culture. 

Building awareness is crucial, so all staff recognise the importance of mental health in the workplace and the expectations of respect for others. If awareness is prioritised, this minimises the chances of certain individuals acting outside of the expected behaviours and parameters set surrounding psychological safety.

Model psychological care

Model psychological care means that leaders need to model a good work-life balance and self-care to be the best example for workers. Setting an example and showing how to, as well as the importance and benefit of doing so, can build awareness and ensure employees are consistently looking after themselves. 

This is THE number one priority in my workplace. I pride myself on being a very fair and approachable leader that encourages open and honest discussion with individuals. I have high expectations of myself in terms of the culture I have built at the business, and I know I own a business that promotes the mental health and well-being of staff and customers. 

I encourage all business owners, employers/leaders to visit worksafe.qld.gov.au and check out the resources on building a mentally healthy workplace.

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Hayley Lewis

Hayley Lewis

Olympic swimming champion and business owner Hayley Lewis is the Queensland Mental Health Ambassador for Workplace Health and Safety. Inspired by her own story as a mother, mentor, sister, athlete and employer, Hayley is driven to reduce the stigma around mental health across Queensland and encourage her community to be more open with their feelings. Open about her struggle with mental health through her journey as an athlete, Hayley is now committed to raising awareness around workplace mental health and the importance of looking after yourself and your staff. As a business owner for over 20 years, Hayley feels very strongly about creating a community within her staff and building a comfortable workplace for her employees to have candid and supportive conversations about their mental health.

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