icare and r u ok? launch world-first study

icare and R U OK? today launched a world-first study into psychological safety[1] in the workplace, which showed that frontline lower income-earning staff feel less safe and permitted to take risks at work than higher income-earning employees.

The Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey[2] canvassed 1,176 Australian employees and found that only 23 per cent of lower income-earning frontline employees felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk, compared to 45 per cent of workers on significantly higher incomes.

A “psychologically safe” workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves to make mistakes or take risks in their work.

“This is the first time a country has ever measured psychological safety in the workplace,.”
Graeme Cowan R U OK? board member and workplace mental wellness expert 

“Google’s research of its own workforce revealed that psychological safety was the most important team norm for high-performing innovative workplaces – those norms are: Psychological safety; Dependability; Structure and clarity; Meaning and purpose; and Impact,” he said.

“While all five norms are important to team performance, psychological safety has been shown to be the most important attribute - if this attribute is strong, the other four norms are so much easier to achieve.

“If CEOs want their organisation to thrive in today’s digital economy, team psychological safety must be paramount, as well as striving for and monitoring of employee wellbeing,” Mr Cowan said.

icare CEO Vivek Bhatia said: “In a growing climate of uncertainty and increasing stress on workers, families and communities, mental health is one of the biggest societal challenges of the 21st century. One in five people in Australia will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.

“Employee mental wellbeing must be at the top of every CEO’s agenda. Untreated mental illness costs Australian businesses $11 billion every year off their bottom line from absenteeism, lost productivity, stymied business growth and compensation claims,” he said.

“An investment in psychological wellness is an investment in now and the future.

“Employers should also recognise that this investment extends beyond their employees. We all bring our work home with us, including our state of mind.

“Mental wellbeing is not isolated to the individual – it has a flow-on effect to families, loved ones, and friends, who are at the heart of our social fabric.

“I urge all employers to ensure their people have a mentally safe environment to work in, one which respects differences, welcomes diversity and encourages employees to feel comfortable talking openly about how they’re doing,” Mr Bhatia said.

icare and R U OK? will also partner up to hold the Senior Leaders Workplace Mental Wellness Breakfast at the Westin in Sydney today with 200 CEOs and senior leaders from more than 80 organisations convening to understand and help define as a community “Why Mental Health Should be on Every CEOs’ Agenda”.

Organisations attending include: Ernst & Young, PwC Australia, Lendlease, CapGemini, CBA, Westpac, NAB, ING, AIA Insurance, EML, QBE, the Black Dog Institute, Virgin, Bayer, CoreLogic, Altius Group, BridgeClimb and the NSW Mental Health Commission.

The Australian Psychological Safety Survey is the result of a collaboration between R U OK? and Amy Edmondson, the pre-eminent global thought leader on psychological safety and Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at the Harvard Business School.



[1] The concept of “psychological safety” originated from Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership & Management from Harvard Business School and is defined as a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.

[2] Conducted by Colmar Brunton for R U OK?, the Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey was based on an independent online survey of 1,176 Australian full-time and part-time employees across all states and territories in March, 2017.

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