Monday, March 6, 2023

The Value of Human Capital in the Era of AI and Machine Learning


The Value of Human Capital in the Era of AI and Machine Learning


J van Zyl (PhD), March 2023



The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has the potential to transform many industries and aspects of our lives. From self-driving cars to medical diagnosis, the capabilities of machines are expanding rapidly. As these technologies continue to advance, questions arise about the value of human capital in the new economy. Human capital refers to the knowledge, skills, and abilities that individuals possess, and it has long been recognized as a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. 


The era of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has indeed led to a significant transformation in the way businesses operate. The integration of these technologies has enabled organizations to automate various processes, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies. However, while AI and ML are transforming the workplace, there is an ongoing debate about the impact of these technologies on human capital. Some experts argue that AI and ML will replace human workers, while others contend that they will augment their capabilities. In this paper, we explore the concept of human capital in the era of AI and ML, drawing on the existing literature to examine the value of human workers in a world where machines are increasingly capable of performing complex tasks.


The Value of Human Capital


Human capital refers to the knowledge, skills, and abilities possessed by individuals that contribute to their productivity and ability to generate economic value. While AI and ML can automate certain tasks, they are unable to replicate the creativity, empathy, and critical thinking skills that are unique to humans. As such, human capital remains a crucial component of organizational success.


One study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI, 2017) estimated that while AI and ML will displace some jobs, they will also create new ones, leading to a net increase in employment. The report also found that the most significant gains would come from the complementary relationship between human workers and AI and ML systems. For example, AI and ML could be used to automate routine tasks, allowing human workers to focus on higher-value activities that require creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.


Another study by the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2020) found that while AI and ML would lead to a decline in some job categories, they would also create new ones. The report predicted that emerging job categories such as data analysts, AI and ML specialists, and digital marketing professionals would experience significant growth in the coming years. These jobs require specialized knowledge and skills, highlighting the value of human capital in the era of AI and ML.


Furthermore, the use of AI and ML in the workplace has highlighted the importance of soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and adaptability. As AI and ML continue to automate routine tasks, human workers will need to focus on activities that require a human touch. For example, customer service representatives will need to possess excellent communication skills to provide personalized support to customers.


The Complementarity of Human and Machine Capital


A growing body of research suggests that rather than displacing human workers, machines and AI can be complementary to human labour. Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2014) argue that advances in technology increase the value of human capital by making it more productive. As machines take over routine tasks, human workers are freed up to focus on more complex and creative tasks that require human judgment and decision-making. For example, AI may be able to analyze data and identify patterns, but it still requires human input to interpret the results and make decisions based on them. Similarly, while machines may be able to perform routine tasks like data entry or transcription, humans are still needed to provide context and make sense of the information.


The Importance of Soft Skills


As machines become more capable of performing technical tasks, the value of soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving increases. A study by the World Economic Forum (2020) found that the top skills needed in the workplace in 2022 are expected to include critical thinking, creativity, and people management, all of which are difficult to automate. These skills are closely tied to human capital and are likely to become even more important as machines take on routine tasks.


The Need for Continuous Learning


The rapid pace of technological change means that workers must be able to adapt and learn new skills throughout their careers. This requires a commitment to lifelong learning and a willingness to invest in human capital. The OECD (2019) highlights the importance of upskilling and reskilling workers to keep pace with technological change. This may involve retraining workers for new roles or providing opportunities for ongoing education and development. The value of human capital in the new economy depends in part on the ability of workers to keep pace with technological change and acquire the skills needed to remain relevant.




In conclusion, while AI and ML will undoubtedly transform the workplace, they will not replace human workers entirely. The complementary relationship between human workers and AI and ML systems highlights the value of human capital in the era of AI and ML. As AI and ML automate routine tasks, human workers will need to focus on activities that require creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. The emergence of new job categories and the importance of soft skills highlight the ongoing need for human workers in the workplace. Therefore, organizations should continue to invest in the development of human capital to remain competitive in the era of AI and ML.



Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. W W Norton & Co.


Manyika, J., Chui, M., Miremadi, M., Bughin, J., George, K., Willmott, P., & Dewhurst, M. (2017). 


MGI, (2017).  A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity. McKinsey Global Institute.


OECD, 2019.  Human Capital:  How what you know shapes your life.  Available at:  [Accessed on 4 March 2023]


World Economic Forum. (2020). The future of jobs report 2020. Geneva: World Economic Forum.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Psychological Hazards in The Workplace

 Psychological Hazards in The Workplace

 Jacques van Zyl (PhD)




The workplace is an important setting where individuals spend a significant amount of their time, interacting with colleagues, performing tasks, and fulfilling responsibilities. However, it can also be a source of psychological hazards that affect employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Psychological hazards in the workplace pose a significant risk to employee health and well-being. These hazards can have wide-ranging effects, including mental health problems, physical health problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Strategies to mitigate the impact of psychological hazards can be implemented at the organizational, interpersonal, task-related, and individual levels. By addressing these hazards, organizations can promote a healthy work environment and support employee health and well-being. This article will explore the psychological hazards that exist in the workplace, their impact on employee mental health, and strategies for prevention and intervention.


Psychological Hazards


Psychological hazards in the workplace are defined as aspects of work that have the potential to cause harm to employees' mental health and wellbeing, including stress, burnout, bullying, and harassment (Leka, Jain Iavicoli & Di Tecco, 2015). They refer to factors in the work environment that can negatively impact the mental health and well-being of employees. These hazards can be grouped into four main categories: organizational factors, interpersonal factors, task-related factors, and individual factors (Nielsen, Randall, & Albertsen, 2010; Bakker & Demerouti, 2017). Organizational factors include job demands, work overload, lack of control over work, role ambiguity, and organizational change. Interpersonal factors refer to issues related to workplace relationships, such as conflicts with colleagues, bullying, and harassment. Task-related factors include work with high physical demands, work that is monotonous, and work that requires high levels of attention. Finally, individual factors include pre-existing mental health conditions, coping styles, and personality traits (WHO, 2017).



Effects of Psychological Hazards


The effects of psychological hazards in the workplace can be wide-ranging and significant. High levels of job strain have been linked to increased risks of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout (Van der Doef & Maes, 1999). Workplace bullying and harassment can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a range of physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders (Niedhammer, Chastang, David, Kelleher & Theorell, 2013). Exposure to workplace violence can lead to acute and chronic stress reactions, anxiety, and depression (WHO, 2017).


Types of Psychological Hazards


Several factors can contribute to psychological hazards in the workplace. 


Job demands


These refer to the workload and time pressures associated with the job. High levels of job demands can lead to stress and burnout, which can have a negative impact on mental and physical health. Job control refers to the extent to which individuals have control over their work and can make decisions about how to carry out their tasks. Lack of job control can lead to feelings of helplessness and a lack of autonomy, which can increase stress and burnout.


Interpersonal relationships


These relationships at work can also contribute to psychological hazards. Bullying, harassment, and discrimination can all contribute to a toxic work environment, leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased stress. An organizational culture refers to the norms, values, and beliefs of an organization. A positive organizational culture can lead to increased job satisfaction and motivation, while a negative culture can contribute to stress and burnout (Samuel, 2015).




Stress is a common psychological hazard in the workplace and is defined as an individual’s response to a situation where the demands of the job exceed their ability to cope (Leka, Jain & Lerouge, 2017). Workplace stress can arise from a variety of factors, including heavy workloads, tight deadlines, lack of control over work, and poor relationships with colleagues and supervisors. The impact of workplace stress on employee mental health is significant, with research showing that stress is associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, and burnout (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013).




Burnout is another psychological hazard that arises from prolonged exposure to workplace stress. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach, Schaufel & Leiter, 2001). Burnout can be caused by a variety of workplace factors, including high workload, lack of control over work, and poor relationships with colleagues and supervisors. The impact of burnout on employee mental health is significant, with research showing that burnout is associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Shanafelt, Hasan, Dyrbye, Sinsky, Satele, Sloan & West, 2015).


Bullying and Harassment


Bullying and harassment are two additional psychological hazards that exist in the workplace. Bullying is defined as repeated aggressive behavior intended to intimidate or harm another person, while harassment is unwanted and unwelcome conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf & Cooper, 2011). The impact of bullying and harassment on employee mental health is significant, with research showing that these behaviors are associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Einarsen et al., 2011).


Prevention and Intervention


Preventing and managing psychological hazards in the workplace requires a multifaceted approach that involves employers, employees, and other stakeholders. Employers can take steps to reduce workplace stress and prevent burnout by providing training and support for employees, ensuring workload is reasonable and manageable, creating a positive work environment that values employee wellbeing, and ensuring work-life balance is maintained (Fletcher et al., 2013). Employers can also establish clear policies and procedures for addressing bullying and harassment, and provide training and education for all employees on these issues (Einarsen et al., 2011).



Interpersonal interventions, such as conflict resolution and mediation, can help to address workplace bullying and harassment. Task-related interventions, such as job redesign and ergonomic modifications, can reduce physical demands and monotony. Finally, individual interventions, such as stress management and resilience training, can help employees to develop coping skills and reduce the impact of psychological hazards on their mental health and well-being (WHO, 2010).


Employees can also take steps to protect their mental health in the workplace. This can include seeking support from colleagues or supervisors, setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, and taking regular breaks and practicing self-care (Leka et al., 2015). Employees can also report incidents of bullying or harassment to their employer or a third-party reporting mechanism.




Psychological hazards in the workplace pose a significant risk to employee mental health and wellbeing. Stress, burnout, bullying, and harassment are all potential hazards that require attention and intervention to prevent harm. Employers, employees, and other stakeholders all have a role to play in creating a positive work environment that supports employee mental health and wellbeing. By working together, it is possible to reduce the prevalence and impact of psychological hazards in the workplace.




Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2017). Job demands-resources theory: Taking stock and looking forward. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 273-285.


Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2011). The Concept of Bullying and Harassment at Work: The European Tradition. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2nd Ed., pp. 3-39).


Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience: A review and critique of definitions, concepts, and theory. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12–23.


Kivimäki, M., Singh-Manoux, A., Virtanen, M., Batty, G. D., Ferrie, J. E., Tabak, A. G., ... & Shipley, M. J. (2018). Common mental disorder and obesity: insight from four repeat measures over 19 years: prospective Whitehall II cohort study. BMJ, 361, k2251.


Leka, S., Jain, A., Iavicoli, S., and Di Tecco, C. (2015).  An Evaluation of the Policy Context on Psychosocial Risks and Mental Health in the Workplace in the European Union: Achievements, Challenges, and the Future.  Volume 2015 | Article ID 213089 |


Leka, S., Jain, A., and Lerouge, L. (2017). Work-Related Psychosocial Risks: Key Definitions and an Overview of the Policy Context in Europe. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-63065-6_1.


Maslach, C., Schaufel, W.B., and Leiter, M. (2001). Job Burnout. Annual Review of Psychology 52:397-422.


Niedhammer, I., Chastang, J. F., David, S., Kelleher, C., & Theorell, T. (2013). The contribution of occupational factors to social inequalities in health: Findings from the national French SUMER survey. Social Science & Medicine, 81, 139-147.


Nielsen, K., Randall, R., & Albertsen, K. (2010). Participants' appraisals of process issues and the effects of stress management interventions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(1), 19-37.



Samuel, O.B. (2015). The Effects of Organisational Culture and Stress on Organisational Employee.  Management 2015;  5(3): 96-106.

Shanafelt, T.D., Hasan, O., Dyrbye, L.N., Sinsky, C., Satele, D., Sloan, J., and West, C.P. (2015). Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014.  Mayo Clin Proc, 2015 Dec;90(12):1600-13.


Van der Doef, M., and  Maes, S. (1999). The job demand-control (-support) model and psychological well-being: A review of 20 years of empirical research. Work & Stress, 13(2), 87-114.

World Health Organization. (2017). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from information-mental-health-workplace/en/







Thursday, February 2, 2023





The field of occupational health and safety is a complex and multi-disciplinary area that focuses on the well-being of employees in the workplace. A key aspect of this field is the understanding and management of psychological health and safety, which refers to the promotion of positive mental health and the prevention of psychological harm in the workplace. Psychological health and safety has become increasingly important as research has shown that poor mental health can have significant impacts on employee well-being, productivity, and organizational performance, i.e. inefficient employment of human capital.


Definition of occupational psychological health and safety


Occupational psychological health and safety refers to the emotional and mental well-being of employees in the workplace. It encompasses a wide range of issues, including workplace stress, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.


Causes of poor occupational psychological health and safety


There are several factors that contribute to poor occupational psychological health and safety, including job demands, job control, and support from team members and managers. For example, job demands such as high workload, time pressure, and role ambiguity can lead to stress and burnout. Conversely, high job control and supportive team members and managers can promote psychological well-being in the workplace.


The importance of occupational psychological health and safety


it is widely recognized that psychological health and safety are key determinants of overall occupational well-being.  Human capital costs are mostly the highest of the cost elements organizations incur in producing a product and/or service.  High levels of psychological health and safety correlate positively with high returns on human capital costs and investments.


Consequences of poor occupational psychological health and safety


The consequences of poor occupational psychological health and safety can be severe, both for the individual and the organization. For individuals, it can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, and decreased job satisfaction. For organizations, it can result in high turnover, absenteeism, decreased productivity, and increased costs associated with turnover and recruitment. In addition, psychological health and safety can lead to poor mental health can also result in increased health care costs, decreased morale and increased burnout among employees.


It is therefore important for organizations to prioritize the promotion of positive mental health and the prevention of psychological harm in the workplace.



Strategies for promoting psychological health and safety; best practices and interventions


To promote occupational psychological health and safety, organizations should implement a variety of best practices and interventions. Some examples include:


·      Promoting a positive organizational culture: A positive organizational culture can play a significant role in promoting positive psychological health and safety, as well as mental health and well-being among employees. This can be achieved by promoting open communication, valuing and recognizing employees, and creating a supportive work environment

·      Providing support and resources for employees: Organizations can also provide support and resources for employees to help promote psychological health and safety and mental health and well-being. This can include offering access to employee assistance programs, counselling services, and training programs on stress management and resilience

·      Developing and implementing policies and practices that promote psychological health and safety, as well as mental health and well-being, such as flexible work arrangements, health and wellness programs, and ergonomic work environments

·      Developing and implementing policies and procedures to address psychological health and safety risks, such as, workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment

·      Encouraging employee participation in organizational decision-making

·      Providing opportunities for skills development and career advancement

·      Promoting a healthy work-life balance through flexible work arrangements





In conclusion, psychological health and safety is an important aspect of occupational health and safety that must be given consideration by organizations. By promoting positive mental health and preventing psychological harm in the workplace, organizations can benefit from increased productivity, improved organizational performance, and decreased costs associated with poor mental health, i.e. increased return on human capital employment.





American Psychological Association. (2016). Stress in the workplace. Retrieved from


Health and Safety Executive. (2015). Managing stress in the workplace. Retrieved from


Kelloway, E. K., & Day, A. L. (2010). A review of the antecedents and consequences of psychological health and safety in the workplace. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 42(4), 181-191


Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2017). National standard of Canada for psychological health and safety in the workplace. Retrieved from


Schaufeli, W. B., & Taris, T. W. (2014). A theoretical meta-analysis of the job demands-resources model. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(2), 273-299


The Conference Board of Canada. (2016). The economic case for addressing mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from


World Health Organization. (2017). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Big Five Personality factors and cold calling sales staff

We are busy with such an exciting project in the area of recruitment of cold calling sales staff!  More research will be published shortly as we gather more data, but in the mean time peruse a short paper at:

Thursday, September 29, 2022

AssessmentWorld Pty Ltd Catalogue 2023

We are proud to publish our catalogue for 2023.  Download the full catalogue here.  Visit our website, for further information, as well as to access our social media.

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Intra-systemic Human Capital Measurement Model

AssessmentWorld Pty Ltd suggests an alternative approach to human capital measurement and reporting (read the full article at: ).  This approach is built on a philosophy of measuring for the sake of managing, versus measuring for the sake of reporting.  This means that the focus of the measurements is to internally improve on the employment of human capital over time, and to track and measure said.  This approach differs fundamentally from one where measuring is done against the myriad of metrics that exist, with the view to comply with external indicators, standards and disclosures.  Human capital measurement is a highly fragmented area of management practice, and we posit that the current reporting in integrated statements, reflects the same condition.

AssessmentWorld Pty Ltd also of the view that efforts to standardise HC measurement, for the sake of ‘coherent’ reporting and comparability, will be an exercise in futility, as, for one, organisations differ substantially in the way they operate in a specific time span.  A quantitative example would be the differences between organisations on a metric such as labour costs as a percentage of revenue (LCPR).  Company A might reflect a LCPR of 50%, and an EBITA of 12%, versus Company B, reflecting a LCPR of 20%, and an EBITA of 3%.  Clearly the LCPR metric in this example could be interpreted incorrectly, if simply read on its own.

A qualitative measurement example would be the differences between companies on a metric such as a Staff Satisfaction Index (SSI), using a Likert scale.  Company A might score a Sten 8 on an SSI instrument, indicating a high SSI, versus Company B, scoring a 6, i.e. average SSI.  Deeper understanding of the workings of the two companies during the reporting period, reveals that Company B changed executive leadership, and was driving an aggressive growth strategy, demanding greater levels of input and quality from employees.  The mere Sten score on the SSI does not explain the more complex and stressful interactions in Company B during that period, versus Company A, which, during the same period, was experiencing exponential market growth, offering its employees expansive bonuses.

AssessmentWorld Pty Ltd suggests an Intra-systemic HC Measurement Model for the use of HC measurements in organisations:

HC measurement and management should be based on ethical principles, such as fairness, honesty, loyalty, care, accountability, and responsibility.  

Based on ethics and organisational justice, managers should execute HC measurement and management, discretionary, whilst ensuring system integrity.  

Discretionary system integrity, now enables managers to create privacy, dignity, safety and protection, both physically and psychologically for the organisation’s human capital. It also enables management to self-direct human capital autonomously and strategically, and to self-correct, where indicated by measures.  

It then follows that managers have the autonomy to measure, analyse, improve and manage human capital from a quality management perspective, i.e. deriving the highest levels of returns on human capital, be it quantitatively or qualitatively measured.

Measurement, analysis, improvement and management of human capital, as described above, is a continuous process, therefore, when integrated reporting for stakeholders is done, it should report on this process via uncomplicated, concise and informative narratives.  These narratives should be integrative in nature, without unrelated, complicated quantifications and data representations.  In short, the ‘story’ of how human capital was deployed in a particular year, should be presented.  

The implementation of the Intra-systemic HC Measurement Model creates various implications for organisational managers in order to give effect to its principles and execution:

Management in this context refers to all line managers in the organisation, and not just HR management.  The latter has to indeed take the lead here, as human capital measurement-management is their specialist area.  All organisational managers, however, have to be trained and skilled in these areas, as they mostly engage with employees during performance within the operations of the organisation.  

Determination has to be made regarding what is material and important for the organisation to measure in terms of its human capital efficiencies.  A combination of quantitative and qualitative measures may be decided upon.  

Managers also need to be clear as to how, and with what they want to measure.  This would include, how often these measures need to be applied, and would depend on organisational specific needs.  Instruments, such as, accounting, production and HR data, surveys, and performance appraisal outcomes are some of the measures which can be used.

A vital component of model execution, is the decision/s as to how to translate the measures into human capital efficiency improvements.  Management by objectives (MBO) comes to mind here, with clearly defined key performance areas and indicators, linked to clear time lines.

Change management is a competency that needs to be employed, to ensure buy-in, motivation and engagement.  Employees who are made to feel important as human capital, and not mere labour, will be less resistant and more inclined to partake in improvements, such as upskilling, adapt to new work flows, and the like.

General managerial actions, such as controlling, monitoring, and remediation, should be applied.  Managerial agility would lead to timely identification of deviations, and implementation of corrective actions.

Continuous measurements of improvements should be documented and communicated internally, as this leads to further re-enforcement of efficiency changes implemented.

At the end of a financial year, organisations will then possess of rich sets of data to narrate to external stakeholders in an integrated manner, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative data.  The organisation now tells its human capital measurement and management story, which is unique to its identity and circumstances. 

Within the Intra-systemic HC Measurement Model approach, standard developers and regulators need to take note of the following implications:

The idea of developing and prescribing a plethora of standards and regulations, purely for the sake of reporting, will be counter-productive.  Measuring for the sake of managing is rather the philosophy to be introduced here.

Specific standards and regulations should be non-negotiable and enforceable, such as, physical and psychological health and safety, rights of employees, workplace ethics, including non-discriminatory management, and the like. 

Most standards should, however, be voluntary, enabling organisations to move freely, and narrate their unique human capital efficiency improvement ‘story’ on their own terms, utilising these voluntary standards as guidance and framework.  

A mix of quantitative and qualitative standards and regulations should be developed and made available, in order to assist organisations to choose those who most aptly apply to them and their specific circumstance at a specific time.  This will afford organisations the capability to develop integrated narratives regarding their human capital within a broad, mostly voluntary framework of standards.  The approach should also allow all stakeholders to make an informed assessment as to the truthfulness and trustworthiness of said narratives, as well as enable comparability within and across industries, and over various time frames.

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Measurement of Human Capital

The full article can be read at:

The term human capital refers to the economic value of an employee’s experience and skills. Human capital includes assets like education, training, intelligence, skills, health, and others that employers value, such as, loyalty and punctuality. As such, it is an intangible asset or quality that is not listed on a company's balance sheet/statement of comprehensive financial position, yet has a profound and direct impact on its financial bottom line.  Human capital is perceived to increase productivity and thus profitability. The more a company invests in its employees, the higher the levels of its productivity and success become.

The psychological-behavioural value drivers of human capital reside in the following factors:

*Psychological wellness/being  

*Psychosocial health and safety 

*Employee engagement/Job satisfaction, including training and learning opportunities/Job performance

*Organisational Culture 

Employing any form of capital holds inherent risks for business managerial-leaders.  Human capital is no exception.  This asset is in the final analysis made from flesh and blood, tends to become emotionally upset, becomes fatigued, falls ill, disengages, experiences personal problems, is often subjective, loses interest and motivation.   Risks, and their effects cost the organisation money, whether in direct economic costs and/or indirect opportunity costs.  

The risk of e.g. absenteeism, as a result of factors, such as, psychological un-wellness, un-safeness, job dissatisfaction, disengagement, lowered job performance and toxic culture, is one of the major factors for business managerial-leaders to take into account, when employing human capital. 

AssessmentWorld Pty Ltd offers quantitative organisational surveys, enabling management to calculate human capital risks and their real cost effects.  The results of these surveys, over time, also enables management to implement interventions, measure, track, and report on their effects.  These statistics and their graphic displays can further be utilised in organisations' annual integrated reporting documents.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Psychological Health and Safety Index (PHSI-S)

The Psychological Health and Safety Index (PHSI-S) measures a person's perception of his/her psychological health and safety as it pertains to six dimensions:

The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2018) defines psychological health as 'a state of complete physical, social, and mental well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity; a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community'

The same standard defines psychological safety as 'the absence of harm and/or threat of harm to mental well-being that a worker might experience' and states that a psychologically healthy and safe workplace is 'a workplace that promotes workers' psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways'

The Psychological Health and Safety Index (PHSI-S) is a reflection of an organisation's employees' experience and perception of the six psychological health and safety dimensions in the workplace.


This dimension refers to work-related hazards of a psychological and psychosocial nature, and the severity of injury and ill-health that can be caused by these hazards, inclusive of psychological injury, such as depression, suicidal ideation, psychosomatic and physical health reactions (hypertension, migraines). Hazards of a psychological and psychosocial nature include aspects of work organization, social factors at work, work environment, equipment and hazardous tasks (ISO 45001). 


This dimension refers to psychological health, which is defined as 'a state of well-being in which an individual realises his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her/his community' (World Health Organisation).  Psychological/mental health is also often expressed as the absence of psychological symptomology, such as, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and others.  Employees suffering from psychological ill-health, are often present at work, yet do not fully contribute to productivity as they are often 'mentally absent', e.g. experience low concentration levels and lack of confidence to execute tasks.  Psychological ill-health can be caused by workplace psychological hazards and/or originate from situations outside the workplace, including but not limited to, relationship strife, financial difficulties, and societal disturbances.     


The causes of physical health problems may be physiological, biological and genetical.  Physical health problems could also be caused by psycho-social causes, such as stress and fear.  The adverse effects of physical health on the psychological wellness of an employee are well documented in research literature, and include lowered concentration levels, presenteeism, self-depreciation, and the like.  These, in turn, affect psychological safety directly, and could lead to increased work-related accidents, interpersonal conflict, and decreased productivity.


Psychological stress is defined as 'a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being'.  

Burnout is a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation (mental distance), and reduced personal/professional accomplishments, in which the person has no positive feelings, sympathy, or respect for their job. Burnout occurs as a result of prolonged response to chronic stressors in the workplace. It has a wide range of psychological, physical, and behavioural problems which will not only have a negative impact on an individual's work-life but also their personal life.

Fatigue is a state of unrelenting exhaustion, lasts longer than mere acute tiredness, is more profound and isn't relieved by rest. It's a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces a person's energy, motivation and concentration. Fatigue at this level impacts a person's emotional and psychological well-being.  Occupational fatigue can be caused by chronic stress states, physical over exertion, ill health, lifestyle choices, such as alcoholism, obesity, and the like.  These causes could also be situated outside of work parameters, yet cause fatigue in the employee, for example, interrupted sleeping habits, relational difficulties, and financial distress.


Work-life-balance refers to a state of equilibrium between the demands that are placed on an individual from a work perspective and a personal life perspective. Individuals who report low levels of work-life-balance (i.e. have conflict between their work demands and personal life demands) are up to 12 times more prone to experience burnout and two to three times more likely to experience depression, compared to those individuals with better work-life balance.  (World Health Organization: WHO Healthy Workplace Framework and Model).



Coping capability refers to various personal abilities and perceptions which will allow the person to either cope with difficult situations and to manage them effectively and efficiently, or not.  Some people use humour, have confidence to assert themselves positively during conflict, exhibit resilience when workload increases, show 'bounce back ability' if adversity happens, have strong interpersonal support systems, apply high levels of EQ, don't get upset easily, understand others, etc.  These behaviours, and many more, assist employees to cope with life and work.  The opposite is also true.


The PHSI is the composite of the equally weighted six psychological health and safety factors measured in this survey.  This composite should be interpreted together with the individual factors assessed.  For example, the PHSI might present favourable, yet one or two of the individual factors, such as, stress-fatigue-burnout, might present less favourable.  Managers should then focus on the less optimal factor, do further root cause analysis, and implement improvement practices. 

Absenteeism-Presenteeism Risk Indicator (APRI)

The Absenteeism-Presenteeism Risk Indicator is determined by calculating the inverse of the PHSI.  It indicates the risk that employees, due to adverse psychological health and safety factors prevalent in the organisation, will either excessively be absent and/or behave with presenteeism, that is attend work whilst unwell, hence not contributing productively and cost optimally to the tasks they are assigned.  The APRI needs to be factored into the calculation of the cost of absenteeism-presenteeism in an organisation.

Psychological Hazards-Safety Risk Indicator

The Psychological Hazards-Safety Risk Indicator is the risk associated with high levels of psychological hazards and mentally unsafe working environments.  These hazards and environments could include excessive workload, unsafe physical work conditions, autocratic management practices, toxic cultural environment, workplace bullying, job insecurity, various types of harassment, physical and interpersonal violence, unfair remuneration practices, and the like.  

Psychological Health Risk Indicator

The Psychological Health Risk Indicator is the risk that psychological ill-health, such as depression among employees can affect productivity, and increase absenteeism, presenteeism, and employee turnover and replacement.  The cost of this risk factor is mostly 'invisible' and not calculated/taken into consideration when determining possible absenteeism-presenteeism and employee turnover and replacement costs and trends.  

Physical Health Risk Indicator

The Physical Health Risk Indicator refers to the absence of health, such as, chronic and recurring minor physical illness.  This risk factor has a direct impact on employee costs, such as, temporary staff appointments.  It also has indirect/opportunity costs implications, including extra workload burden on team members and supervisors, which may cause errors in work, and re-working.  This may, in turn, generate other direct costs, such as overtime.  Organisations should include this riks factor when calculating direct employee costs, as well as absenteeism-presenteeism costs.    

Stress-Burnout-Fatigue Risk Indicator

The Stress-Burnout-Fatigue Risk Indicator measures the risk associated with employees' unproductive management of stress, leading to fatigue and burnout.  This risk factor also directly feeds into the absenteeism-presenteeism risk factor, and should therefore be take into account when calculating these costs.  

Work-Life-Balance Risk Indicator

The Work-Life-Balance Risk Indicator is the risk associated with work-life imbalance, and has a direct impact on employee functioning.  Individuals who report low levels of work-life-balance (i.e. have conflict between their work demands and personal life demands) are up to 12 times more prone to experience burnout and two to three times more likely to experience depression, compared to those individuals with better work-life balance.   

Coping Capability Risk Indicator

The Coping Capability Risk Indicator is the risk associated with employees' inability to cope with e.g. work-related pressures; life problems; personal adversities.  In many cases, employees utilise unproductive coping mechanisms, such as, excessive alcohol usage, violence, avoidance, and disengagement from work.  These all eventually add to employee costs, whether direct or indirect.  This risk factor has a direct bearing on absenteeism-presenteeism, employee turnover and replacement costs.