Step 1: Learn about poor support

What is poor support?

Poor support means not getting enough support from supervisors or other workers, or not having the resources needed to do the job well.

Poor support at work occurs in tasks or jobs where employees don’t have sufficient:

  • emotional and practical support from supervisors and colleagues
  • information or training to support their work performance
  • tools, equipment and resources to do the job

Poor support at work can harm your business in several ways. It can lead to lower productivity, reduced morale and increased absences and mental injury claims. It could even lead to staff resignations, requiring additional time and money to hire and train new staff.

What are your rights and responsibilities at work?

Employers must provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and free from risks to health, including psychological health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace, and the health and safety of others. They must also cooperate with employers to create a safe environment.

Step 2: Consult your employees

Consultation can be done in a number of ways. Depending on your workplace, it can be as simple as casually walking around your workplace having a conversation, or as formal as setting up a health and safety committee.

Good consultation has lots of benefits – it leads to better decision making and greater cooperation and trust between employers and employees, who get a better understanding of each other's views.

Consultation isn't just good practice though, it's actually a legal requirement for employers. Employers must consult with employees including health and safety representatives (if any), about matters that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect, their health and safety. So far as is reasonably practicable. This includes identifying whether poor support may be a hazard at the workplace, and working out how to eliminate or reduce the risk of it occurring.

At a minimum, consultation must involve sharing information about any health and safety issues, giving employees reasonable opportunity to share their views on those issues, and taking those views into consideration.

Learn about your rights and responsibilities, as well as how best to consult

Step 3: Identify the hazards and risks

A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm to a person. Think of hazards like 'situations' or 'things' in the workplace that can hurt someone, either physically or mentally. The risk is the potential of the harm actually happening.

For example, a ladder is a physical hazard. The risk is being physically injured from falling from that ladder. The same applies to hazards that affect our mental health – these are known as psychosocial hazards.

Poor support is an example of a psychosocial hazard that can negatively impact someone's mental health. It's about more than having to wait for someone to get out of a meeting to answer a non-urgent question. Poor support becomes a hazard when it is severe enough and/or if it happens often enough that it could pose a risk to someone's mental health.

Examples of poor support:

  • having limited tools, equipment or resources to get the job done
  • receiving information that is unclear or not passed on in time
  • supervisors that aren't available to help, who provide unclear guidance, or take a long time to make decisions
  • not receiving a sufficient induction into the role
  • no training to support competence in the role
  • not being able to easily get help
  • not knowing who to get help from
  • supervisors who are unable to be contacted in times of need
  • a highly competitive or critical workplace culture that discourages support
  • workers are too busy to help each other

Often multiple hazards can be present at the same time and can combine to increase the risk of harm occurring. Identifying poor support as a hazard and understanding factors that contribute to it occurring is the best way to prevent it from happening.

Some factors that might make poor support more likely include:

  • poor systems of communication between employees
  • limited training for supervisors on how to provide practical and emotional support
  • insufficient training to support with organisational induction such as where to access risk register
  • limited opportunities for feedback on performance
  • leadership that doesn’t provide sufficient or equal support to employees
  • employees that work remotely, alone or in isolation with no access to timely support
  • lack of knowledge on relevant policies and procedures

Managing these factors well should decrease the risk of poor support occurring in the workplace.

Step 4: Assess the risks

A risk assessment will help you understand the risks to your employees' health, and how to prioritise your efforts to manage them.

It is good practice to identify hazards, both individually and together, that are creating risks to health and safety. Once you have identified the hazards, you can assess the risk of them occurring.

Risk assessment tips

Step 5: Control the risks

A control simply means 'ways to manage' an issue. Controls are things you put in place to eliminate or reduce risks. The list could be endless, but it’s really just about taking action, so far as reasonably practicable, to manage the risk of poor support happening in your workplace.

Here are some ways that employers can take action (or 'implement a control') to create a safe workplace.

Step 6: Share, review and improve

A safe and mentally healthy workplace needs ongoing commitment and engagement.

If you have a poor support prevention policy, review it every year or when new information about poor support becomes available. You want to check whether the controls you've implemented are still relevant and effective (i.e. training, reporting).

By sharing the outcomes of these reviews, as well as suggestions and recommendations for improvements, you can keep the conversation going. This will continue to build trust and cooperation between you and your employees. Consultation must be undertaken before making any changes to the workplace, things used at the workplace, or the conduct of work at the workplace, and these changes should be communicated to your employees.

Here's an idea! Set a calendar appointment now to review your policy in 12 months.

More resources

Discover the Toolkit and subscribe to WorkWell

WorkWell supports leaders to create safe and mentally healthy workplaces. Access the WorkWell Toolkit for step-by-step tools tailored to your business size, or subscribe to the WorkWell newsletter to stay up to date and receive support direct to your inbox!

The WorkWell Toolkit Subscribe

The WorkWell Toolkit is proudly developed by WorkWell.

Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.