Dr Sharron O’Neill video
Measures for mentally healthier work.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 1.17GB)
RUN TIME: 1 hour 10 mins 55 secs
Good morning everyone. Thank you for joining us here today for the last online Work Well 365 Speaker Series session for 2022. I'd like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, which we are speaking to you from today and on which you are learning and working from. We also pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching. Today. I'd like to pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land on which our UNSW campus is located in Canberra, and where I'm broadcasting from just outside Canberra in New South Wales. I'd also invite you, if you'd like to, to acknowledge in the chat the traditional custodians of the land where you are today. So, my name's Sharron O'Neill. I'm an Associate Professor of Accounting and Deputy Head of School research in the School of Business at UNSW Canberra.
I'm also the Director of the Public Service Research Group at UNSW Canberra. My research examines the design measurement and reporting of performance measures for decision making, governance and accountability. And most of my work relates to non-financial indicators of work, health and safety. So, in this regard, I work quite a lot with government industry executives and boards, investors and professional bodies looking at work, health and safety, performance measurement and reporting. What I'd like to share with you today is some considerations about measures for mentally healthier work. So, I'd like to introduce some new guidance that we've just produced, um, in collaboration with the National Mental Health Commission, National Workplace Initiative. And this, these guides, we've produced two guides, one for larger medium organisations and one for soul traders and small businesses, recognising that they have different needs and challenges as I'll just run through a few things, um, to give you a flavour of what's in the guides. There'll also be some opportunities to ask questions at the end of the presentation, so please don't hesitate to submit them in the chat. And, um, we'll get to those at the end.
So, welcome everyone measuring for a brief introduction. We'll look at why measure what to measure, how to identify good measures. So, looking at what good quality data looks like. We'll touch on some unintended effects of measuring, and we'll look at resources that you can use to help you. So, measuring, I think one of the first things we need to think about is what do you think measuring's going to achieve? We all hear the, the old adage, you know, if you don't measure it, you can't manage it. And you know, if you measure that will allow you to manage. And there's this almost assumed link between data and better performance. And so we just think if we do measure, then we are necessarily going to perform better. And I, that's not really the case. When I look at this, I like to, um, consider this little cartoon, which is one of my favourites because I think it speaks a lot to some of the misconceptions around measurement.
We have the guy stranded on the island, and all he wants is a boat, because when he gets a boat, he'll be safe. He sees the boat, yes, success. I have my boat, there's a person in a boat stranded out at sea, all he wants is land. Now he sees land, yes, success, but is that really success? The man on the island isn't really looking for a boat. He's looking for to be rescued. He's looking for safety, he's looking to be returned home. The guy in the boat isn't just wanting land, he's wanting home, he's wanting that security, he's wanting to get back to people and food and all of those other things that, that people need. And I think this really highlights some of the misconceptions we have around performance measurement. That we assume that if we've got data, things unnecessarily going to be better, and that's not the case. So, one thing I always encourage people to do is to think about why you're trying to measure what do you think it's going to achieve? Because really the data is about giving you information to make more informed decisions. And when you can make better decisions, then you end up with better health and safety. So, it's not the data per se, it's not measuring per se that's going to achieve anything. It's really about trying to inform your decisions in a way that's going to lead to better decision making.
And I like this, um, quote here by Saul Eastlake, who, um, safe Work Australia has, has, uh, cited this in one of their reports and say, in the absence of accurate, reliable, and timely data, people and organisations will make bad decisions. They'll be unable to help or persuade others to make better decisions. And no one will be able to ascertain whether the decisions made by a particular individual or organisation was the best one that could have been made at the time. Now, of course, that's not always the case. Sometimes you can be lucky and make good decisions in the absence of data, sometimes you have very good intuition, and you know, you can get that gut feel for what's needed, but really accurate, reliable, timely information is really important for informing those decisions. But that's not the only thing. It's not only about being reliable, which is accurate and free from bias and timely, it's also really important that our information is relevant to the decisions we're trying to make.
If it's not relevant, it's just noise. And we all end up with reports and information that we have all of this data that doesn't get used, reports that don't get opened, information that just confuses us. So, we want to be fairly strategic about the measures that we collect and that we report and make sure that we are targeting the right people with the right information. Quite often some of the, uh, studies that we've done working with organisations, we see a group of w h s measures that are captured, and they include, you know, um, injuries and leading indicators, lagging indicators, and then the whole set of measures is given to everyone in the organisation that makes decisions. Really what would be better is to target the right measures to the people making decisions that need those particular measures. And so that way the users of data aren't trying to sort of wade through information to see what's going to be important for them.
And the other thing our data must be is valid, which means when people look at the numbers or the data, it doesn't all have to be quantitative. When people look at that information, they have to be able to understand what it's telling them. They need to know what the measure is actually measuring and how they can use it in an appropriate way. And we've all seen examples of measures like lost time injuries, for example, one of my bug bears that get used in inappropriate ways. You know, people think about, I, I had a conversation with a senior manager about injuries, and he said, well, I get lost time injury data and quite, I I'm really happy with that. It tells me what my serious injuries are. And I said to him, so you think a sprained ankle that has someone off for a day is more serious than permanent hearing loss? And he said, well, no. Yes, but the sprained ankle might count as a lost time injury. The hearing loss won't if you haven't been off for a day. So, you are not actually receiving information that you think you're receiving, it's actually telling you something a little bit different. And so, the whole idea of valid information is about understanding what the measures are telling you so that you can interpret them properly and use the data in an appropriate way.
And I think it's important to remember it's not a one size fits all. People often look for off the shelf performance measures or off the shelf, um, reporting systems. And I think they can be useful, they can be particularly useful as a starting point, but we need to think about what are the measures we need, what is appropriate for our organisation and our context. And we come up with the measures that actually suit us. And it's really about horses. Courses, measures that might work really well in a mining sector may not be so appropriate in healthcare or financial services. So we have to think about what our data needs are, and that's where benchmarking can come into play as well. Sometimes benchmarking can be really useful, particularly when it's across your own industry sector. But if you're benchmarking against other organisations that are very different to you, then depending on the measures that you're looking at, um, it may actually be a little bit distracting and putting resources into an area that's not helping you with the decisions that you need to make.
And so, the sort of things we need to be thinking about is who makes WHS related decisions and what are those decisions? What are they trying to understand? Where are the knowledge gaps? So where is data actually needed and what type of data would be helpful? We also need to think about is it already there? So sometimes data's already available that we haven't connected to our decision, and we might think, well actually, if I use this information, that's going to help me make that decision. Sometimes we need to go out and collect new data and we need to be able to do that appropriately.
So, when it comes to identifying the data that's going to be useful for us, we need to think about the choices that we make. They're going to be guided by things like, what are the information gaps? What is it we really need to know? Not always nice to know. Obviously there's endless amounts of data that we could collect. We need to be fairly, um, tailored to our decisions. We need to be quite controlled in what we actually capture so that we don't end up overloading people. And of course, there's always resource, resource constraints with capturing data. We need to think about the type of data that we're going to use. Now, I look at measures a lot, but I certainly recognise that not all of our data needs to be measurable. We may have qualitative data that's really useful for helping informed decisions. So, for example, you might be looking at things like exit surveys and saying, why are people leaving our organisation?
We've had an increase in the number of resignations, what's going on? So, let's look at that qualitative data. It might be quantitative perception data, so it might be from surveys and people's experiences and perceptions that's, that's useful. Not to the same extent reliable as perhaps something that we can objectively measure because perceptions are very subjective, but still important and useful. And so, when we think about perceptions versus measures, we're looking at, um, just being aware of the limitations of each of those kinds of sets. So, perceptions we need to be thinking about, you know, how likely is it that that perception is durable and reliable over time? We know that if a person's come in on a day their couldn't get their car park and you know, they've had a bad morning or they get to work in their favourite chairs gone missing and they've got some other chair there, or you know, they've got a pile of emails they weren't expecting, it may change their mood. It may influence perceptions on the day the way they're feeling, their experiences. By the same token, come into work, somebody thanks you for doing a good job the day before, um, comments on the quality of your work, then it will put you in a different frame of mind. Your perceptions may be a little bit different as a result.
So, it's not that they're not relevant or useful, it's just that we just need to be aware that there may be some limitations around reliability in that sense. And by the same token, measures aren't completely objective. There's subjectivity around measuring things. And that's because we first need to decide what we're going to measure. And so that's a choice. What are the boundaries around what we're measuring? How are we going to measure what data are we using? And so there can be subjectivity there as well, which we need to just keep in mind. One of the other things that will guide our choices of data is organisational culture. So, what's the level of trust? Like, so if we're say, doing interviews or surveys, if you have an organisational culture with high trust, you're more likely to get more useful information. If trust is low, people may be hesitant to actually say what they feel.
The working relationships between individuals, between managers and subordinates will also affect, um, the kinds of information that you might be able to elicit and the sophistication of the systems and processes themselves. Have you got the data on hand? Are things automated? Is there certain data that's collected? Do you have to manually collect data? What sort of systems do you have? All of those things come into play. And I'm reminded on the automation front. Um, a few weeks ago I received an email end of October, our system is now set up that it will send us emails at the end of the month and tell us about our use of technology. And I received an email that said, you know, I'd attended so many meetings on time, so many percent of meetings on time, and I, in the last month, um, I had worked 17 days past midnight.
I had done, you know, so many other things, sent so many emails and to so many people and all this sort of thing. Now that data just comes to me, it doesn't go to my boss, but it did make me stop and think and then, okay, I need to have a conversation. This workload is getting a bit ridiculous so I could then go and have that conversation with my manager about, um, workload. Those kinds of things can be really important for just highlighting some of the activities that we don't necessarily see on a day-to-day basis. So, the systems, um, automating some of that data can be really useful and thinking about things that you might have in your HR data could be useful as well. And we'll touch on that later. So, I think the key thing there is that whole horses for courses, you've got to get the right measures to inform about the decision that you're trying to, to look at, um, is really important. The data has to be fit for purpose.
And I also like this little meme attributed to Einstein. If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I'd use the first 55 minutes to determine the proper questions to ask. And that comes back to this idea of understanding the problem so that we can target the right data and make an informed decision. So, are we using the resources appropriately? Do we have enough resources? Are we using them well? And think back to the due diligence in the, in the legislation, due diligence requirements, are the resources available and being used? We need to have a sense of that. Are we achieving our goals? And I think taking a bigger picture is really important to ask, what does success look like for us? What are we expecting to achieve? What are we hoping to achieve? And given that we are working within complex systems, we're working within a broader context, we need to be thinking about what would the system look like if it were working.
So that's Professor Deborah Blackman in my head. Uh, she's a professor of strategic people management and leadership at the University of New South Wales. And this is one of her, um, better known sayings. She's always saying, what would the system look like if it was working? What are the levers that we need to be moving in order to get the outcomes that we're trying to get? And so that brings us to think about issues around our system of work. And I noticed that, uh, Queensland has just put out a code of group recently put out a Code of Practice on psychological wellbeing at work. And other states and jurisdictions have done similar sorts of things. So, we, we are really starting to focus in on psychological health and safety as a workplace issue. And I think that's really important, and this is where the systems focus comes in, the work design within a broader system. And so, I just wanted to touch on that for a couple of minutes.
If I think about the organisation that we're working for now, those all the, our organisations have certain risk factors and we're fairly familiar with the kinds of, um, workplace risk factors, you know, the biological physical manual handling, those sorts of risk factors. And within our organisation, if we're thinking about psychological health and safety, some of the things might relate to the resources we have and the way they're used, the systems we have in place, um, how effective they are, whether they work as intended. Our workforce profile is part of our context leadership, the quality of leadership, the culture in the workplace, management's policies and procedures. Are they appropriate? Are they effective? Are they enacted fairly? And um, is their organisational justice? So those sorts of things define our organisation and um, are really important for informing the way we work. But those organisations, our organisation sits within a broader context.
And that context is things like the industry we operate in the risk profile of the industry, the size of the organisation, economic factors, interest rates, access to affordable gas and energy, labour market factors. We see at the moment there's a squeeze on labour market regulation. Is regulation changing? What is it actually requiring? Where are we located? Are we in the middle of a city? Are we out in regional areas? Are there natural disasters or other sorts of crises, covid, things like that? All of these form part of our context and they're going to shape the way the organisation acts and responds and the kinds of risk factors that the organisation experiences.
And those factors obviously are going to have an impact, um, in the way work is performed. And so, we have this overlap between the worker and the organisation, and it's this bit in the centre there where we really need to be, um, focused and making sure that things are working well as intended, that we are operate in a way that ensures the health and safety of workers. And so, if we think about those psychosocial hazards, these are really anything, um, at work that can cause psychological or physical harm. And they extend, oh, they, sorry, they stem from the way jobs and tasks are designed and organised, managed and supervised comes back to the idea of leadership and culture and management policies over here. The tasks and jobs, their inherent psychological hazards and risks, um, equipment and working equipment, the environment, the requirements, physically hazardous environments. This is all coming from the code of practice. And you can see that these are all work design issues. They all stem back to the organisational risk factors and the workplace context, and they have this impact on the worker. And so, we need to be managing these kinds of things well.
So, the organisation needs to protect workers from the risk of harm from those things, obviously so far is reasonably practical. So, I'm going to look at three pillars here in terms of how the organisational factors and workers and factors, risk factors for workers come together to sort of examine psychological health and safety. So, the organisation needs to protect workers from the risk of harm associated with all of those kind of contextual factors. The contextual factors really, um, will shape what the organisation does, how it operates, the resources that are available to it. So that really, um, affects the way the organisation operates. And then the organisation needs to put in place systems of work that are going to protect workers from harm. Now we also know that workers bring to work with them their own personal factors. So physical and mental health, their educational levels, skills and capabilities.
Everyone comes with their own experiences and history, personal attitudes, motivations and preferences. All of these personal factors shape the individual. And so, when we take those into consideration, we look further back, and we can see that they're shaped by the context within which the individual sits. So, their own family and community support and resources and commitments. They're going to be different for different people access to work opportunities and to residential and medical services. They might have different social and religious influences and practices. So, all of these things shape the individuals, and they bring themselves their whole selves to work.
And so, in organising work and designing work, we also need to be mindful to respond to the needs of workers. And so, this is in this space in the middle where the workers and the organisational needs are overlapping. And then finally promoting wellbeing. So, the three pillars we need to protect workers from the risk of harm, respond to their individual needs, much as practical and think about those when we are designing work. And then also we can go beyond the kind of work health and safety into the wellbeing, promote the whole self, the healthy self, which is obviously really important and has work benefits as well as personal benefits.
So, if we think about mental health and mentally healthy workplaces, you're probably familiar with the mental health continuum that's this one's adapted back from keys. Um, we have this continuum from healthy reacting, injured and ill, and I think it's really interesting to look at what the organisation is doing along that continuum. Now I'll just talk a little bit about the university where I work. We have started as many organisations are looking really carefully at psychological health and safety. We're in fairly high risk, um, organisations. So, there's lots of challenges and for us to manage well. And one of the things that became apparent is we were really good at this. We had lots of wellbeing things in place. Um, you know, we have all sorts of support services we have, um, are you okay days and get fit days? And we run all sorts of, um, health initiatives and looking even more deeply, we've started in the last few years having wellbeing days where we just, the organisation says, okay, today is a downtime day, the end of really big periods of work.
So, a lot of our work, for example, is crushed. And you probably may have similar things where you find peak periods where load is really high. So, for us it's end of semester, you're marking, you're still doing research, you've got to get results done, you're getting ready for the next semester. And of course, because you're not teaching every training course in the world gets crammed into that work week as well. And so, for those two weeks between when one semester ends and the next one starts, it can be really, really busy. And so, some of the strategies were the university put in place a wellbeing week and a wellbeing week is a recharge week. So, no meeting scheduled for that week. Avoid emails as much as possible and it gives time for people to just get on with the things that they need to be doing that they're having trouble finding space for and making those decisions about, you know, pulling back that control over your work and your work life and your time and taking it a little bit slower following that really busy period. And so those sorts of things are really important and that was really good. The occasional wellbeing day, okay, we're just going to take a day. So those, um, those sort of things we were doing very, very well.
And you can see that's kind of down in this promotion area. When it comes to the other end of the spectrum, we again had very good things in place looking at, um, dealing with people with mental health issues and concerns. We run lots of mental health first aid training. We have, um, all sorts of EAP and um, sort of resilience to all those sorts of things, you know, so they're responding. We have processes, special consideration processes for dealing with students who are, have mental health concerns. We've got a lot of those things in place as well. But when we look at the responses, we realised a lot of that was focused around the mental health personal factor, but not so much about the other things that can drive, um, psychological injury. And so, we had this missing middle, and I think that's the same for a lot of organisations.
They're starting to think more about, you know, we are doing all these things to try and address psychological health and safety, but are we taking it down to that real work design holistic approach to psychological health and safety? And so that's where we go back to the say this diagram here is from the principles of good work design from Safe Work Australia. And we think about how we actually design work to make sure that we're addressing these hazards. And as I said before, we're really good at doing that with the physical hazards and the chemical hazards and the biological hazards. And we understand things around posture and ergonomics and vibration and movement, but we're less familiar with some of those cognitive and psychological hazards. And so, thinking about how we design work to get to that middle space to prevent people from being injured, to stop the harm before it actually, um, damages people is really important. And I think this is where we can start to think about what can we measure to make sure that we are designing work at this level that is actually going to be preventing psychological harm. And so that's that protect layer.
And so here we get to the guides. And so, our mentally healthier workplace guides, there's two of them. They're available from the National Mental Health Commission's, mentally healthy, uh, men, national Workplace initiatives, website measures and indicators for medium and large organisations, and another one for soul traders and small businesses. And I think what they're trying to really help us do is understand that there's a lot of measures and indicators that can help us better understand the context within the organisation and the broader context within which the organisation sits. So, it's about what can we do as organisations, as managers to make work healthier, make our workplace healthier. It's not about trying to manage individual, uh, mental illnesses. It's not about being psychologists. And I know that some organisations are a bit nervous to get in. You know, we've, we've spoken to organisations that have said, look, you know, we are really struggling with psychological health and safety because we are not psychologists.
And I think one of the things that we need to recognise is, that's right, we're not all psychologists. We can get the psychologists in the expert advice when we need it, but there's a lot we can do as managers and organisations to actually design work that's going to be healthier for people. We can look at the things around job control and job demands and resources. We can look at issues around role clarity and try and reduce some of the stresses that people are facing every day. And part of that is by understanding our context better and our people better.
So, this is just from a large guide, just to give you a sense of what's in the guides and it's really about, um, trying to identify and suggest some indicators that can help you in creating mentally healthy workplaces, things that can help you look at your systems and practices and understand them better, understand the implications of those practices to make more informed decisions to identify the problem areas early. So, what are the sorts of measures that can flag early some of the issues that might be emerging in your organisation. You know, have we got deadlines that are increasingly being missed? Have we had a number of people leave that haven't been replaced and we're now finding workload is getting compressed? Is the workplace changing? Have we changed a manager and we are now starting to get some complaints or people are starting to get, you know, there's some poor workplace relationships happening there that we really need to be getting on top of early before they become problematic?
Are we meeting our legal duties? What does due diligence look like? Are we actually, do we know that our executives and our offices know and understand work health and safety and what it means for this organisation and this workplace? Are we allocating the right resources and using resources effectively? All of those sorts of things that we, we need to be looking at. And you can see as you go through the guide, there's some practical tips in there for keeping it manageable for how we can capture data, how we can sort of collect it, collate it, record it, how we can make it easy. Where can we use existing data? So maybe we look at things like HR systems and, and other data that we already have available. So, we're not reinventing the wheel, we're not trying to create new reporting systems and make lots of work and bureaucracy. And I think one of the things, um, drew Ray has talked about in the idea of safety clutter I think is really important. We don't want measurement to become an end in itself. It's not about creating volumes of data in another job for somebody. It's about just trying to get the information we need to support the decisions that are being made.
Ethics and privacy is another one, and I'll touch on that in a minute. So, so this is kind of what the guide does. I think. Um, thinking about lead and lag indicators is also really important when we are looking at measuring data. So, lead indicators, we often hear people talk about lead as being all of the system indicators and lag is the outcomes, the injuries or illnesses. And that's true if what we're talking about is this reference point of a loss of control. So, we actually can think about it in a little more nuanced of a way where we say lead indicators might be what we do in the system, the resources we use, the systems we're implementing, the kinds of things we do and use the outputs is what is the result that those are having? So, for example, taking a fairly low one if we're talking about training, um, maybe management training to, we might be training, training our middle and senior managers in workload allocation so that they know how to manage their subordinates’ workloads well and, and sort of principles for allocating work in a way that is going to be manageable and fair and equitable and all of those sorts of things.
So, if the training is what we're looking at, the lead indicator is how many managers are trained. That lag indicators might be something like, um, the perceptions of people about their workloads. Are they feeling more comfortable with workloads? Are they manageable? So, was the training effective? So that workloads could be a lag indicator of the training, but it could also be a lead indicator of psychological injury. And so, we can have the same measure that can be lead or lag just depending on the focus, what we're actually using it for. So, measures aren't in themselves lead or lag, they're lead or lag depending on what you do with them. And so, for example, injuries in the same way that we might say a physical injury to a hand is a lag indicator of our system guarding. It can also be a lead indicator that tells us about what we need to improve. And so, this is that link between the outcomes back to the inputs.
I hear people say quite often we're throwing out and, and reasonably it's uh, recently it's been more often see people on LinkedIn and in other places saying, we're throwing out our lead, our lag indicators and we are just going to focus on lead indicators. And I think, well that's, that's a little bit problematic and it's a bit of the, uh, throwing the baby out with the bath water. We don't want to do that. Yes, we shouldn't be focusing on lag indicators of injury in the way that we have. We shouldn't be putting so much focus on them, but we still need them, as Bottomley said in uh, back in the 1990s. If all we're going to do is focus on leading indicators, it's like saying, I'm going to assess my students at university based on how much effort they put in and how many hours they spend at the desk, but I'm never actually going to test whether they learned anything.
We need to have the outcomes as well as the inputs. We need both sides to be able to really understand the processes, the systems, and how effective they are. And so that comes back to things like the purpose. So, are we wanting to monitor something? In which case we might want to, um, measure and take repeated measurements over time? Are we trying to benchmark with somebody else? So, we need to think about what are the measures that we're going to benchmark. It might be that we take some performance measures just as a one-off to do a bit of a pulse survey, see where we are, get a sense of what's happening, and then move on. We may not need to revisit it. So, I suppose the thing I'm trying to highlight here is just that it's got to be really tailored to your organisation and your needs. And if your needs is benchmarking, that's fine, not a problem with benchmarking. But that's a different purpose to measuring for managing. Um, obviously some of the measures you use in your benchmarking, hopefully you would be able to apply to your internal decisions as well, but you may need additional measures. So, the level of detail aggregated, highly aggregated measures, climate surveys is a good example. So, we might do climate surveys to give us a sense of health and safety leadership.
If we look at the whole organisation surveying results, that gives us one indication, we might break it down into departments or business units and that might highlight something different. It will, it may highlight where there's pockets of difference that we don't see when it's all aggregated together. So, one of the things about looking at how much we aggregate data is thinking about whether or not it's going to be useful, looking in a little bit more detail. Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. Um, the methods that we use is also important. So, when we're collecting data, think about should we be using surveys?
Same question asked to everybody. Um, that's one approach. Focus groups is the information we are trying to elicit shared experiences and we're interested in perceptions of that kind of shared experience where it's not too personal and people are happy to open up in a focus group. Maybe we need to move to interviews because the information we're trying to collect is a little more sensitive and people aren't going to open up in focus groups. So, we need to be thinking about those kinds of issues too. When we are designing our measurement systems and our, our data gathering systems, some of the common pitfalls that come up, surveys, oh, survey fatigue. How many surveys do people get? Sometimes they're too long or they come out too frequently and then we lose the quality of data because people just lose interest.
Respondent perceptions, sometimes people might perceive that the surveys are disingenuous, people aren't going to fill it in if they think the data that's collected is just going to sit on a shelf or it's not going to be taken seriously and used, or if they think the data is or the questions are too intrusive, they might not be interested in answering them. So, thinking about those kinds of issues, the design issues, are those questions too difficult? Are they ambiguous and could be taken in different ways or are they just boring and people don't want to answer the survey because it's seen as um, a waste of time? So, we need to be quite careful when we are designing surveys to make sure that they are going to get us the information that we want. And sometimes of course we can have unintended consequences. Maybe there's under reporting, maybe the results are misinterpreted, maybe it highlights some problem or issue that we didn't really know we had, but now is blown up into something that needs some major attention.
So, we need to think about the way that we measure and the effect that's going to have on individual behaviours and they could be good effects. And sometimes we measure things in order to change behaviour. We want to measure things to show that we care about it, that we are looking for change, we're wanting to see change and we can actually use performance measures to drive change. And then of course the other thing, particularly when we're talking about psychological health and safety is issues of privacy and confidentiality. So, we need to think about how and when the data's collected, how we use it, where we store it and who has access to it, particularly when we're talking about sensitive information. So, we have personal information, a lot of which is already with hr and then we have sensitive information. And I think it's important to make sure that we are not collecting sensitive information just because it could be interesting.
There has to be a purpose and it has to be something that we really need that information for. And I think one of, um, the important considerations is about making sure that people can opt out of things, um, where that's really personal and they're not happy to participate. So, for example, with some of the health promotion, sometimes people need to opt out of different, um, activities and things that you might be doing. People need to know that it's not going to be too intrusive if we're looking at surveys and focus groups and things. And at the end of the day what I want to try and focus us back on is the work design elements, not the individual personal health and safe, uh, individual psychological health aspects. It's important, but we need to be addressing the other stuff as well. So, when you look at the guides, you'll see that each of these three pillars is addressed.
So, protect, for example, talks about what we're actually trying to do, suggests some different questions that we might be thinking about, looks at examples of how we might design a healthy workplace. And then the guide gives some examples. Here's a measure you might want to think about, this is why it can help. Here's some extra considerations for using those measures. And so starting to think about what that context looks like, how we might capture data that's going to be useful, useful, how we use it appropriately, and what sort of limitations that data might have. And the guys do that for each of those, um, pillars, the respond, so whether it's actually responding to signs and signals of mental health, ill health or distress, um, what sort of work adjustments we need to make. And then some sort of more proactive protective measures. And again, examples of some measures, what we can monitor and some of those considerations. And then in the promotion field, same thing again, looking at what are the opportunities, how do we consult, recognising and rewarding positive behaviours?
How do we help people achieve work-life balance and those, um, examples and considerations again? And then at the end of the guide we have an appendix with quite a number of performance measures that you might want to consider now. Um, Karen Wolf and I wrote a guide for Safe Work Australia years ago about due diligence and we listed a whole range of performance measures that organisations might want to consider. And is there anything in here that we feel we need to know within our organisation? And here's how you might go about measuring it. Now, interestingly, while that was intended to provide a list of options, um, we did hear back that some organisations then went and implemented all of them, which was a little surprising and must have been a lot of work, not the intention. So just let me highlight that for this. We're not saying these performance measures, you need to do all of them, but what we're saying is these are some of the things you might think about.
They might jog your imagination to look at something else that's kind of similar. But I think the key thing here is this idea of what is the measure. What are you trying to understand? What is the measure? What is the actual metric or indicator that you're using to capture that data? Where do you get it from? And then importantly, what are the insights that that data is able to provide? What can it actually tell you and what doesn't it tell you? So, this is to make sure that we use that information appropriately. We understand what it's actually communicating and what it doesn't tell us. So where are the gaps in that metric and what further considerations might we need to think about? So, for example, if we're using unplanned leave costs, it doesn't capture lost contracts due to absences, it doesn't op capture opportunity costs.
If we're thinking about, um, average weekly hours, for example, we might be using weekly hours as a measure to tell us something about work. It tells us the duration of work, kind of, it doesn't tell us whether the hours worked were necessary to complete the tasks. It doesn't tell us whether the hours are fully reported or under reported. It doesn't tell us whether those hours were used effectively and productively or if those hours reflect the preferences of working hours for the managers and workers and agreements between them. So, there's a lot of information those raw numbers don't tell you, and we often have to delve in underneath that to get that extra information.
And so, these, um, tables of measure, sort of sample measures and indicators at the end of the guides can be quite useful just for helping explain some of the performance measures a little bit more. So, I think, um, just kind of wrapping up, the guides are really about trying to highlight the role of work design and how we can use performance measures and other data, qualitative data, um, descriptions, discussions, feedback to try and improve the work design within our workplaces to make our workplaces mentally healthier for workers. And that's all workers, including managers. So, things like identifying the gaps, making sure that we capture relevant and reliable data, that we analyse it carefully and objectively. We report it clearly in a way that people can understand, and we tailor it to the audience. We consider ethics, privacy and confidentiality. And um, and that's, that's really important. I don't think that can be understated. We'd be alert to the unwanted consequences of using data and of some of the systems that we implement. And so, this is about identifying the target measures and indicators appropriately. So, gathering and using good data to address each of those three pillars. Protect from harm and risk factors, respond to the needs of the individual and promote healthier work.
So, the key takeaways there, um, I think measurement, it's a process through which we're translating objects, activities and events into numbers. It's not as objective as you might think because there is a whole lot of subjective choices to be made around that process. What do you measure? How do you measure it? Who are you involving in those measurement processes? So, we need to be mindful of those choices and the limitations that they might introduce. And they have implications for data quality and for the validity, um, the way that data actually used, if it's used appropriately, we need to focus on data that informs decisions. So quite often we focus way too much on injury outcomes and we use it for the wrong things. It's great for telling us what impact we're having on people. So, it's good for telling us about harm, it's a proxy, a nice kind of proxy measure for that economic and personal and family impact that we might be having.
But it's not very good at telling us a whole range of other things around some of the risk factors that we have and focusing too much on that can lead to under reporting, which then just, you know, undermines our measurement system and our data collection system. So positive performance measures or leading indicators, we can do more with those key, I should have probably put this at the top, is consultation. We need to understand what people need, what they use, how we can do things differently. And I think the one thing I always emphasize with performance measurement, it's not about getting the right number, the number's not the objective. It's about getting the information you need to make really good decisions.
So, um, there's a number of resources, these are the two guides that I was talking about. Um, one for medium and large organisations and one for small business and sole traders. There's some other performance measurement guides and information that we've done there, which, uh, you can link to. And that is about it. And I see we have some questions there, so I might just leave those up and let me have a look. We have some questions here. Thank you very much and if you do have questions, please do put them in. Um, talked about gathering good data, so thank you Julia. What if workers don't want to give you their personal information? And I think that's a, that's a really important one because quite often there are privacy considerations and I think the first thing to consider is how much personal information do we really need?
Is it the individual we need information from or is it that we need to focus on the actual work design? Is there something we can do there that makes it more inclusive, accessible, um, less stressful? And I think, um, trust is the other one is, you know, um, people need to feel that the information they hand across will be respected and will be treated carefully and won't be used against them. And I know in some cases we find that people, when we really do understand their work situation, they're not particularly suited to a particular role and we may need to make some decisions around how to maybe restructure, reorder or redirect an individual depending on what comes out of that. But I think, um, the first thing is to really understand what information we really need in order to design work to be mentally healthy and do we need that level of personal, particularly sensitive information is the key thing.
So, we had a lot of, um, conversation a few years back about organisations wanting individuals to go to their doctor and providing medical information. And I think we really need to be careful about whether or not that's necessary. Hope that answers your question. Um, I run a small business. Are there different measures for small businesses and large businesses? Yes, there definitely are. And in some cases, I think small businesses don't necessarily need to measure in the same way. So, a large business might need to do a, a survey, small business might be a matter of just having some conversations, some effective conversations with your workers. Um, and that can give you data that you need to make some of those decisions. And we talk about that a bit in the, in the guide for small businesses. We also look at information that you might already have that can provide some of those insights where in a larger business you may need to be actually collecting data and managing confidentiality is a really important one.
And I think some of the issues around, um, what information you actually store and where you store it and who has access to it are really important and people need to know that upfront in order to be willing to speak to you about things that are highly sensitive. Um, yeah, so I think we do go in a little more bit more detail in the small guide, particularly around confidentiality because it is a bigger issue in a small workplace. There's only so many people there and it's sometimes a little bit easy to kind of guess who we might be speaking about when, when this kind of open forum or when changes are made. So, I think that is really important.
Are there different considerations when measuring data across industries? Do some do it better than others? Well, I think they, there is, and I think particularly coming back to that idea of the organisational context. So, for example, if we're looking at an industry like construction or mining, where there are certain types of hazards, the data that they will be measuring will be quite different to the types of data that you might be most concerned about measuring if you're in a financial services firm or if you are, you know, in, um, healthcare disability care. So, the kinds of issues that we look at will be slightly different. The workforce is different education levels might be different, comes back to this idea of context, the organisational risk factors and the broader context around the organisation. And so, I think it's really important to understand what our organisation does.
This is why the due diligence requirements, the first two are about knowledge and understanding and they're really important because they're saying we need to understand our organisation, what it does, our broader context, how that comes together to shape the work we do and the experience of people who work with us and for us and across supply chains. So, all of these things are important, and I think there's been a lot of effort going into performance measures in some industries. If we look at, for example, annual reports where we see or sustainability reports, we see an increasing focus now from institutional investors wanting organisations to disclose more information about what they do and particularly from our work health and safety perspective, how are they ensuring health and safety? How are they managing work health and safety risk? And we certainly see that some industries are more advanced than others.
They've had more practice at it and more time to get it right. Other industries will say things, we've done interviews with organisational leaders that have said, oh, we don't have health and safety issues and I'm sorry, rubbish, everyone does. Whether it's, you may not have the same sort of physical risks and hazards, but psychological hazards I think would be relevant for any organisation. So, we need to be thinking about how well we're managing these things. We can't just assume that it doesn't happen. And so, I think look for what others are doing that can be important for giving you hints and ideas, but not necessarily to just copy what others are doing because their context might be quite different to yours. Their workforce might be different, their timelines might be different, the pressures they have might be different, the kinds of hazards they deal with might be different. I mean, think first responders versus, um, book editors. I mean they're going to be quite different in terms of those risk factors. So, it's good to look at others and see what they're doing, but I think we really need to make sure that the information that we are collecting and using to inform decisions, and sorry, I'm harping on about this, but this is really, I suppose the point is to make sure that the information that we are using is appropriate for what we are trying to make decisions about.
Okay. Um, a lot of this seems to be between workers and supervisors and managers. What role do leaders and executives play? Oh, excellent questions Zachary. And I think that is, that is really important because even if you think from the bottom up, yes, the supervisor needs to be managing work designed well, but the supervisor's work needs to be designed well, their manager's work needs to be designed well. It comes from the top if there's a resource crunch at the top that filters all the way down. And we often find that some of the poor relationships and the problems that exist in, in sort of workload and workplace are because middle managers are squeezed, or they're not trained in how to actually allocate and manage work well. How to be leaders in that sense. Senior executives don't understand what they can do to manage health and safety.
And I think there is a huge focus. I think this is where the due diligence, again, I I quite like the due diligence section in the Work Health and Safety Act because it really sets out what business leaders need to do. So, they need to understand work, not just a superficial understanding of, you know, what we do as an organisation and what we sell, but what does work look like. There was one organisation I was working with and I'll, I'll just tell you this one example. We were working with an organisation that um, was looking at, um, psychological health and safety and looking at those contest contextual risk factors and, and was sort of thinking about those 14 things, you know, like the role clarity and job demand, job control, whatever. And there was one around, um, work pressure and scheduling and workload. And the solution they came up with was EAP and resilience training.
And I know a lot of people, uh, workplaces seem to focus on that, but when you look at it, it's really saying, no, hang on, we need to look at designing work. It's not just about making people more resilient and dumping more on them. We need to be able to say, is the workload appropriate? Are they trained to be able to do that work? Is scheduling of work appropriate? Are people coming in with hidden work? You know, are there lots of little hidden things coming in that aren't in the job description but need to be done? Are the job descriptions appropriate and that needs to be understood all the way up anyway? In this organisation, consulting the workers, they said, well actually there's an issue, for example, maintenance. The roof leaks, the roof hasn't been fixed. And so, when the roof leaks we're out of our office, our things get ruined, our computer gets wet, our files get wet, we have to work from home or other offices, it's disruptive, we're late on our deadlines, we're facing pressure.
So, there was all of these psychological health hazards coming in because the maintenance wasn't done. And so, this is where the complexity of the system becomes really important and understanding how it all fits together, um, to be able to see that some of the things that don't necessarily look like psychological hazards actually have those flow on effects. They push triggers and levers that actually do or have the potential to end up in psychological harm. So, I think it's really important for supervisors and leaders, and I know there's a number of people that have been saying this for quite a while. It's about understanding workers done, not workers imagined understanding what it looks like on the ground.
And so there certainly is a huge role for leaders and managers. How are the measurement guides different to the ones I've done previously? Um, I think the focus, these ones are really focusing on mentally healthy workplaces. The first guides we did with Safe Work Australia, the big, detailed ones that I did with Karen Wolf were really focused around due diligence and how we can really understand due diligence within an organisation and within our organisation. Um, the measurement one for New South Wales, the purple one there, that's really just a broad framework for performance measurement in general. And so these ones are focused in a lot more on mentally healthier workplaces and looking at psychological health. Uh, question six, I might just do one last one cause I'll see how we go. Um, how would you tackle the obstacle of directors and owners who are old school and not open to mental health in the workplace?
Yeah, that's a really challenging one. I think, um, as attention is increasing externally, we're certainly seeing a lot more organisations starting to talk about it and it will become more normalised. But it is, it is challenging. And I think if we do it from a work design, you know, when we've got these really resistant people, if we're not talking about mental health, but we're talking about the work, you know, here's where the work isn't working. The workload's too great, I can't meet these deadlines because they're just not appropriate or um, you know, we've had all of these extra tasks come in, we need to be able to organise it. We could do things more efficiently, we could automate this, we could do something differently. I think if we can focus it on the work and in a way that will improve psychological health in the workplace, that can kind of be a really important first step. Um, sorry, we've got a heap of questions coming through. I know I'm out of time. I hope that's not a problem guys.
With the work design measures, do you think it's a good idea to look at correlations between improved job design for mental health, safe MSDs, for instance, increased recovery time, and also provide that in the form of a measure? Yeah, look, I think, um, one of the challenges, and, and that's, that's a good idea. I think, um, one of the challenges is to make sure that performance measures are seen for what they are as informing us and not necessarily, you know, bad. So, if people are taking longer to recover, it depends. If that impacts the durability of recovery, for example, then that can be a good thing if they're back at work too quickly and then they're not recovering fully. I think this is where some of the ways we measure things like injury outcomes are really problematic. I, I have a real problem with lost time injuries for that purpose because it's not measuring, um, the kinds of information that you really need.
It's, it's really just about saying it's a productivity measure. It's not looking at wellbeing, it's not looking at the impact on the person and the damage to the person and the recovery. So, I think those kinds of things can be really useful to measure, particularly if you've got, um, a few of them happening. If you have, you know, one injury, you know, um, and they're very, very infrequent, well, you know, obviously you're going to, you will need to know about it and you want to capture that. But, um, I have seen reports that just show one, like for a, for ages workers comp costs that don't change. I think that's all good to capture, but not everything necessarily needs to be put in every report. So, we want to be able to have the information there so that it can be put forward when it's needed, if that makes sense.
Um, if you have three measures of wellbeing to assess the impact of wellbeing initiatives, what are they? Well, I think that depends on your organisation. Um, engagement and wellbeing. I think I'd go, if it was me, I'd probably go back to those risk factors and start to look at things like, you know, workload, look at the stresses that people face and get some ideas around their perceptions. So not just their engagement with activities that might be wellbeing activities, but something that tells us a bit about, um, how they're actually going in terms of coping with their work. Starting to look at, you know, that intersection. Do they think the workload is appropriate? Um, are they clear about their roles, idea about rewards and recognition? Um, one organisation we're working with said, oh, reward and recognition, we need to do something about this. So, we are going to put in a monthly newsletter that acknowledges people that do things well. Well, that's great, but the main problem with reward and recognition in that organisation was very poor role clarity where people didn't realise what they were actually expected to do and then they put in all this effort in the wrong place and then didn't get promoted, didn't get the kind of, um, performance reviews that they were expecting and that was actually quite damaging. So, the reward and recognition, I think, um, role clarity is an important part of that as well. So, you know, thinking about how these things fit together is, is quite important.
Okay. Last comment question. Sorry. Oh, just touching off on the end of that, our People Matter survey gives little other than engagement wellbeing, which was a self-report score, your thoughts on this? Look, I think self-report scores are good. I think they give you an indication and I think the important thing about them is not so much the score, but the change in the score over time because, um, they can highlight where things are shifting and changing the scores themselves. People will score differently and as I said before, you know, perception scores always have that little bit of subjectivity that's just inherent in there. And so, they're part of the solution, but I wouldn't just be relying on self-perception scores. If you can help it, if there are other things you can use to triangulate what's going on to, to sort of look at the situation from different angles and really understand what's happening, I think that can be quite helpful, if that makes sense.
Okay. Um, so I'll share with you, um, some links I'll give Safe Work Queensland, links to these documents that you can use and, uh, little summary of some of the slides that we've looked at. Um, thank you for coming along today. I think we're over time, so I'm sorry about that. I'm running a little bit late. Um, I hope you found it valuable, and you can use that information, um, to help you with improving the mental health in your workplace. The presentation recording will be available at Watch Link, watch Live Link for the next couple of weeks, and then it will be available on the website so you can keep an eye out for that. Um, there's a QR slide on the screen. We'd love to get your feedback and if you could please provide feedback when you receive the email link that would be most appreciated.
And check out the WorkSafe.qld.gov.au website for a full range of industry and topic specific resources, including case studies and podcasts, webinars, films, and much more that they have available there to help you take action to improve work, health and safety and return to work outcomes. I'd encourage you to share them with your staff and your networks. And I think just finally, I'd like to say thank you. Thank you for the fantastic questions. I hope you've enjoyed it. I hope everyone has a great day. Um, and remember, work safe, home safe. Look after yourselves. Have a great Christmas break and take care. Thank you.