workplace mental health

#59 Diagnosing toxic stress at work – Jason Van Schie, Founder and Managing Director, FlourishDX

Feb 6, 2024

Jason Van Schie, Founder and Managing Director of FlourishDX, which uses technology to measure and assess the psychological health and safety of organisations, is passionate about providing practical tools and information for leadership to better understand this topic and is also the co-host of the Psych Health and Safety Podcast. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the new laws that make psychological health and safety just as important as physical. We delve into Jason’s valuable insights on the psychosocial risk of a workplace.
    
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"As a leader, it's important for me to respond to people as people."
- Jason Van Schie

DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE

  • What caring means in the workplace for Jason
  • FlourishDX’s use of technology to measure and assess the psychological health and safety of organisations
  • Assessing the psychosocial risk of a workplace and determining its root causes
  • Toxic stresses can include having too much – or too little work – lack of role clarity – poor change management – micromanaging – and bullying etc.
  • Providing practical tools and information for leadership
  • The new laws that make psychological health and safety just as important as physical
  • The costs of poor mental health including the level of absenteeism, presenteeism, employee turnover and worker comp premiums

RESOURCES

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Transcript from the interview


Disclaimer:
The following transcript was generated using a specific tool. It serves as a convenient method for converting our podcasts into text and allows for easy text searches. However, we kindly ask for your understanding if any typos or errors have inadvertently occurred as a result of the tool’s usage.

SPEAKERS

Graeme Cowan, Jason Van Schie

 

Graeme Cowan  00:26

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Jason van Schie to the caring CEO. Welcome, Jason.

 

Jason van Schie  00:31

Thanks, Graeme.

 

Graeme Cowan  00:32

What does care in the workplace mean to you?

 

Jason van Schie  00:38

I guess, as a leader, it’s important for me to respond to people as people, right? I think too often, in larger organizations, people can be seen seen as cogs in a machine, I guess we’re still fortunate that we’re a company of about 20 people growing rapidly, but still relatively small in comparison to many of the CEOs if featured on the podcast. And so, you know, we do have relationships with people, we do know, everyone’s kids names, we do know, you know, what they do on the weekends? So? And that’s across the whole business? Right, not just within pockets of senior leadership within the company. So yeah, first and foremost, I guess treating people as as people and going well, this is they have a choice of working with us. And so how do we make this actually really pleasurable opportunity for them in responding when they needed assistance from us,

 

Graeme Cowan  01:34

and there’s actually evidence to show how important that carry is. Gallup have been researching engagement for 40 years, and they’ve got one statement, which is part of their q 12. And that one statement is my supervisor, or someone at work seems to care about me as a person. And more people that strongly agree with that the higher the profit, productivity, customer service levels, and longer people stay there. So it’s not just the humane thing to do. It’s also smart for business, isn’t it?

 

Jason van Schie  02:05

And that’s definitely my philosophy, right? You treat people well, and then they treat the business. Well.

 

Graeme Cowan  02:11

Bobby, good. Jason, if you could explain to our listeners who may not have heard of you and flourished dx, exactly what you do.

 

Jason van Schie  02:21

Yeah, so essentially, my background is in occupational psychology and human factors. It’s a pretty niche group of practitioners that have that jewel kind of background, but actually makes me really well suited to this new world of psychosocial risk management. So basically taking a health and safety lens to workplace mental health. So essentially, I’ve been building the company flourish DX now for around about five years in its current format, where we’ve had a sole focus on psychosocial risk management. And we are essentially an end to end provider in helping companies to meet, I guess, requirements and legislation for psychosocial risk management, but also what we just consider best practice, right? How do we create work that is good for people and doesn’t harm people. And so through flourish, dx, we provide education. And we do that through our own podcasts, which you featured on Graham, this podcast, we do webinars, frequently, we even do large scale in person training programs for large organisations. We do consulting, and you know, there’s a lot of requests for that at the moment in light of new regulations in Australia, and people trying to come to grips with this, and how do we embed this into our current approach to health and safety, for example, and then through technology. So unlike others that have been working in this space for a while we, we’ve really invested over the last five years in technology, and we are a technology company, essentially. And so what we’re trying to do is through the technology, making consultation with workers about their experience of work, and the risks associated with that more scalable and getting more timely and accurate data so companies can prioritise, you know, what are the things that they need to do to care for their employees in keep them productive and healthy and happy at work?

 

Graeme Cowan  04:07

And I guess this, you know, sudden focus on psychosocial risk, it’s really built momentum, particularly in the last 18 months or so with most, most states and legislations have really emphasised that, that it’s not just about helping to prevent stress. Or, also that again, it’s not just, it’s not just about helping people cope better with stress, it’s about helping you understand the root causes of stress. And there’s been any surprising results that have come to you. When you look at the results you’ve got in the last few years about what are the some of the major root causes of stress and risk.

 

Jason van Schie  04:50

Yeah, and it’s probably it’s fun to grow. It’s not a surprise to me. I’ve got a new term for it, which I’ve been using which is only really emergent The literature over the last few few years, but I’ve been talking about it as toxic stresses, which is hindrance demands. I guess years ago when I mean, I’m talking about 15 years ago, I remember, you know, starting to get requests from companies to come in and talk about stress. And we’ve talked about Jax Thompson law, and you know how there’s an optimal level of stress. And, you know, everyone has a different kind of optimum level, and what is good stress versus bad stress. But I was saying back then, hey, look, but there are some toxic stresses at work that just serve no purpose. So for example, you know, layers of bureaucracy, trying to get a decision made, and, you know, being, you know, having to go up through hierarchies that just don’t make any sense. Things like, you know, having to spend three quarters of your day in meetings that actually don’t allow you to do your job. It’s just disseminating information, and really just being a hindrance. You know, emails, like trying to sort through 300 emails a day versus doing your job. You know, incivility or unrest within the team like having to deal with personality conflicts, rather than actually, again, getting the job done. And it might even just be simple things. And it came up just recently, when working with the client, even just giving people adequate, full warning of when they’re expected to be rostered on to work so that they can plan their lives around work, rather than only doing it a day or two in advance. Yeah. So a large part of our job is actually working with companies to do better consultation with a workforce around what are the all these things, it just makes no sense, right? Because everyone’s stressed, and it causes everyone to be dissatisfied with their job. But if we just, you know, systematically just start to work through all of those things, and eliminate those things, that serve no benefit, either to the organisation or to the individual, you know, it starts to make people’s lives easier, they get more trust in the process, they start to see that when they bring something up, it’s actioned by the company, their lives get better at work, and they become less stressed and happier as well. So it’s not one thing, it’s not really a surprise, I guess what’s really kind of emerged is, you know, this terminology where we go with Challenge Challenge demands, like, you know, working to a timeline or, you know, stretching yourself intellectually, you know, they’re, they’re great in short bursts to boost motivation. And if talking about UX Dobson, it’s actually getting us to that optimal level of stress that these hindrance demands, that doesn’t get us an optimal level of stress, it just makes us, you know, angry.

 

Graeme Cowan  07:28

Yeah, absolutely. For those listeners who may not have heard the Dodson stress performance curve, it’s basically shows that, you know, a stress rise that can increase performance and have been more productive, and on the edge, so to speak, but it’s a bell curve. And once it gets past the top of the bill, the top, it then declines. And, and so, you know, for any manager, or leader, how do they how do they tell when it’s going past the harmful point on that on that stress? performance curve?

 

Jason van Schie  08:07

Yeah, well, there’s two ways, right. One of them is something that we’re trying to solve through technology. You know, when we talk about psychosocial hazards, you know, the things at work that can cause people to become distressed, angry or upset, that work factors, right, like we’re talking about workload control, role, clarity, or all those sorts of things. When we talk about those things that are invisible, largely, and what we need to try and do is to make those invisible hazards visible. And we can do that through, you know, consulting with workers getting some level of quantitative data from that, and then we can determine, Hey, are we seeing changes in people’s experience of these aspects of work? And is it actually now moving from this optimal level of stress to more of a destructive, destructive level. So at a at a group level, or an organisational level, you know, consultation, using technology and risk assessments, for example, can be really helpful. But the other piece is an individual level, you know, our individual workers empowered with the language to be able to be able to put a name to the things that they’re experiencing, and our leaders also having that same shared language, and then being able to facilitate discussions between the employee and their leader regarding when we’ve got a person job mismatch, or when these this exposure to stress is outside of a healthy level. And then we’re talking about you know, how can the leader facilitate job crafting and an individual level to improve that person job match and reduce the stress that the person is experiencing unnecessarily? Yeah.

 

Graeme Cowan  09:43

Back in March this year, I put a post on LinkedIn which essentially said that the best way to boost employee mental health is to give them good managers. And it just went nuts. It ended up having 2.7 million views. views, comments, shares, etc. It just really struck a coordinate in Australia but around the world. Isn’t that simple? Obviously managers have to know what to do to help address the issues. But, you know, how do we get better managers? How do we get better managers that, of course, data is one part of that, but also intuitively understanding what happens in the office on a day to day basis.

 

Jason van Schie  10:25

Yeah, I saw that posts like most of the world, I think, Graham, it’s funny, anything that you write about leadership tends to do pretty well on on LinkedIn, which is why I think Simon Sinek, and people Adam Grant have such a great following, because they write about leadership frequently. But I think with leaders, it’s been commented on frequently, right, that many leaders are promoted into those positions of leadership, because they’re very good technically, at their jobs, and don’t necessarily have the right leadership attributes. And so we really need to be looking at who are we promoting into leadership positions, first of all, but then what are we doing to make them good leaders and continue to develop them as leaders rather than just technical contributors, in order for them to have that positive impact on the workers around them. But the piece I’ve noticed is really missing is their understanding of just basic things they should understand in relation to psychological health and safety, which is understanding things like job demands and job resources. What are the things again, that I can use strategically as a manager as a challenge to learn to increase motivation? But make sure I’m using that in moderation and strategically to ensure that it doesn’t lead to burnout? How am I paving the way or getting rid of these hindrance demands that served our purpose? And then what are the job resources like it? Can I give people more decision making latitude in their role? For example? Do I need to pair them with supportive colleagues so you can maybe have a different skill set that can kind of round them off or facilitate something that they don’t really understand? Can I make accommodations when I know that there are personal things going on on the person’s life, that is actually going to have a detrimental effect on on their work performance, like if they broke their leg, for example, we wouldn’t get physical accommodation. But if someone had a very sick partner, or he was going through a messy divorce or something, is there some level of commendation I can make, you know, to support them or not overburden them, noting that their resilience is going to be less at work for some of the normal demands that they’d be able to handle when they’re healthy. And, you know, they don’t have these other things going on. So I think, and I’ve noticed that just talking like we’ve been doing our own professional practice program recently, for health and safety and HR practitioners, and, you know, this language around job demands and job resources, it was new to a lot of these people. So I’m thinking, well, people leaders, have probably, in the mind, don’t don’t know these things. So I think it’s another really important thing to add to their knowledge and toolkit, so that they understand first of all, and then they know how to actually leverage demands and resources effectively to prevent burnout, increase motivation, and engagement and also reduce the likelihood of harm occurring. Yeah.

 

Graeme Cowan  13:12

What have you found? The implications that COVID forced on the workplace? You know, we obviously when not so much, you NWA but certainly in Victoria and New South Wales, just huge implications in how we work? Did it change how managers and leaders need to manage?

 

Jason van Schie  13:36

Absolutely, without a doubt, right. So obviously, those micro managers that needed to be involved in every decision and be able to watch all their employees closely. They didn’t have that ability anymore, right. So I think these types of leaders, the command and control type leaders, they would have had a lot of difficulty adapting to the new world of work where you actually needed to rely a lot on trust and relationships, right? When you couldn’t supervise people so directly. Yeah. And so I think it was a challenge for many leaders, those that already were doing the whole relationship and trust thing, I think they would have fared a lot better, right? So it really depends on your own leadership style. And I guess where you are in your own maturity and walk as a leader like who would have done well or not so well. It definitely changed people’s experience of psychosocial hazards. And it’s not necessarily that it’ll get worse, like, you know, people are isolated. And that was a big concern, right? In Australia, I remember the government moving quite quickly to increase access to telehealth, for example, because they were worried about the effects of isolation on people’s mental health. But it’s interesting. What we observed during COVID Was that people in the main were less stressed. And maybe that’s because they didn’t have as much pressure on their work life balance because they didn’t have community time. Maybe it was because they had more decision making latitude about when they worked right. Thank you. go out for a run during the day or walk the dog or whatever, and then maybe work later into the evening. So they had more ability to kind of craft their work around their life, rather than life having to fit around their work, which was, which was normal. And also maybe they’re able to get away from if they, for example, had incivility in the workplace or colleagues that they didn’t get along with, they’re able to isolate themselves from that particular hazard. Right? So there would have been less bullying and harassment, for example, because people weren’t in close proximity with each other anymore. So yeah, interesting. Yeah, the the changing nature of leadership, people had to move to that trust and relationship model versus the command and, and, you know, push push kind of culture. And then for individual workers themselves, like the world of work, and their experience of work would have changed dramatically as well. But it didn’t necessarily lead to more stressful or worse, mental health outcome, in some cases actually lead to a better mental health. Yeah.

 

Graeme Cowan  15:54

Well, though, things haven’t finished, have they in terms of the struggles in the workplace? Um, so

 

Jason van Schie  16:08

that’s good. That was good timing, if you’re going.

 

Graeme Cowan  16:14

Very good timing for interruption. The things haven’t suddenly improved, have they? I saw Deloitte put out a study in June 2023. And it showed that both managers and employees were always or often overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed, almost half of employees and managers. So does it surprise you that, you know, this hasn’t suddenly got my daughter it was and suddenly hasn’t reduced? You know, the incidence of stress in the workplace and absenteeism, presenteeism, etc?

 

Jason van Schie  16:57

Yeah, I do have some cynicism about some of the data that’s coming out. I mean, I’ve seen some wild estimates that 60% of the workforce, for example, is experiencing burnout, which is a load of bollocks, quite frankly. But it’s how we understand these things, right. And sometimes we use simple measures and convenient samples to complete these these types of activities at Deloitte, to, which kind of skews the data, I think the one of the more objective data sources that we have, and again, people will challenge that too, would be workers compensation statistics. So in Australia, and not worldwide, but in Australia, we do have a workers compensation scheme. So if something at work causes them to be ill, or injured, including mentally ill, then that can be covered by insurance. Now, what we didn’t notice is that in the last reporting period, that came out, that was for 2122. So on the tail end of COVID, the total number of claims actually reduced for the first time in about seven years had been gradually going up, but we’re actually escalating at quite a rapid pace. So that 75%, up over five years, the year before, up to a maximum of just over 12,100 claims about 10, close to 10% of all compensation claims for mental health related. But in the last reporting period, tail end of COVID, we saw the first reduction in claims in about seven years. So what we’re seeing is maybe less total claims. But then the complexity of claims complaints continues to go up. So that’s seven years ago, Graham was about 19 Weeks was the median of time that was compensated for for the median mental health injury. In the last reporting period, it was 34 weeks. So now, if you actually factor in the over the last seven years, the increasing number of claims for mental injuries, and then also the complexity of claims, it now accounts in the last reporting period, 400,000 weeks were compensated for for mental injuries. And these are all deemed to be work related, right, which means that they could have been avoided, if again, we had better structures and systems that work and more caring, and leaders that could respond in a timely and proper manner. But in terms of a proportion of all clients, it’s almost 40% of every injury and illness claim in Australia. The weeks lost was due to mental injuries. It’s a huge amount. And so yeah, we’re starting to see some conflicting data out there. Right. So we’re seeing that was actually a slight reduction in total claims. But the complexity continues to go up and the bucket of weeks lost due to compensable illness and injuries continues to increase at a rate that’s just unsustainable.

 

Graeme Cowan  19:49

levels also heard a different slant on that decline in workers comp injuries that people were more hidden during COVID. They didn’t have to front directly people that could be You know, hide a little bit not work under so much stress. So, you know, I’ve heard others say they expect it to rise again, we’ll have to wait and see. But on

 

Jason van Schie  20:10

that on that notion, Graham, I mean, I think now, it is actually almost on parity with self report data from the UK. So the UK do the labor force survey through the Health and Safety Executive every year. And in their last reporting period, 46% of time loss, self reported time loss due to illness injury was due to work related stress, depression or anxiety. So we’re actually getting pretty close to self report data in the UK. So I was actually thinking are, we’ve got a long way to go, we’ve for only about 10% of total claims being mental illness related. But if you’re looking at time loss related to so it’s actually getting pretty close to parity with self report data from the UK. So I’m more optimistic that we may be getting closer to the ceiling and what what it was before. Yeah,

 

Graeme Cowan  20:56

one thing that blew me away, like I’ve asked many times, I’m sure you have companies, what’s the cost of your absenteeism? I don’t know. I don’t know. And I did a webinar once. With Stephen Moyer. He runs a group called the Moyer group, and it’s primarily chief financial officers and Finance Directors. And we directly asked Do they measure the cost of absenteeism? 90% didn’t. So it’s one thing to talk about risk. But the first part of risk is understanding what our current costs are to be able to track it, you know, the absenteeism the present is and then the employee turnover? Are you able to help clients to do that? Or have you seen clients really pursue that to try and understand it and look at the root causes and that sort of thing?

 

Jason van Schie  21:52

Yeah, we’re increasingly looking at ways to get this discussion happening at the C suite. And it’s great now with, I guess, with regulations, this is now a Workplace Health and Safety obligation. So it’s a legal risk, and also reputational risk if companies don’t actually meet their workplace health and safety requirements. So it has gotten out of board level into the C suite. But we continue to have to advocate for why would we invest in a particular intervention? Because I can say, in most large companies, the fines for failing to meet the legislative requirements under Workplace Health and Safety Law. It’s a you know, it’s it’s miniscule, right? Yeah. So we’ve got to talk about, well, what is the case for change. And so ROI is something that we support our clients to work out. The problem with things like absenteeism, though, is you’re talking about a fixed costs, you’ve got a budget expense for salary, right, and you’re going to continue to pay it regardless of whether people are at work or not. Turnover, though, is a risk that there is a cost associated with and we help our clients to break that down if they want, you know, you can look at well, what is the average salary that you pay someone? What would be the cost of backfilling and position if you had to get that temporary person in? What would the recruitment cost be as a proportion of salary. And ultimately, what you end up getting is somewhere between 50 to 200% of someone’s salary is the replacement cost, right? So if you can look at what is the likely attrition due to exposure to psychosocial hazards, which we can do now, through our algorithms and on the platform, we can then put a, we can then work out, hey, well, within a part of the business, if we can compare it across the business? Well, we’ve got 30% higher turnover intention in that particular part. Compared to that one, we can say, Well, look, you’ve got 100 People working in that. If it’s 30%, higher, that’s 300. Oh, that’s 30 people that are going to quit. And that’s going to be a higher amount than the baseline or the benchmark across the organisation. Let’s say it’s 100% salary costs to replace this $3 million. So the, the absenteeism and presenteeism one’s hard because it’s a fixed cost. You kind of committed to paying a salary regardless of where the people that are not the turnover, one is a direct cost, because you’ve got a cost of replacing someone. And when we’ve got record employment levels, like we have in Australia, it’s actually becoming more costly and more difficult to replace. The other shoe which doesn’t necessarily fit into ROI is the increase burden that it puts on people in terms of overwork. So there’s an increased burnout risk, right? If you’re in a team, and you’re like, maybe 50% down and sometimes I’ve come across in terms of what your ideal headcount is. So these people are still expected to achieve the same outcomes, but with sometimes 50% Less headcount in their teams. And so that that further obviously increases work overload increases burnout risk, and it also increases attrition risk for those, those remainders in the organisation, so yeah, I guess just the big one there. Right. If you’re trying to work out ROI absenteeism, presenteeism won’t get you too far,

 

Graeme Cowan  25:04

I think when you talk to CFOs, because it’s kind of like a fixed cost. They’re paying regardless. But the the attrition and turnover cost is a big one. They don’t, they don’t feel that way at all, they really do feel that that’s something that they can address the need to raise it in front of people. That was the overwhelming response from this webinar. So, you know, gone are the days of CFOs, just looking at numbers and, you know, dividend yields and percentages, they see that as highlighting the right measures to have in place for their people. And I know, you know, you have some reservation that some studies are out there. But there was a study another study by Deloitte actually in 2020, in the UK, and it was the case for investment. And they identified that 44% of absenteeism was due to mental health, mental ill health, you said it’s 46, or by going up to 46. Now, they also found or estimated that the cost of presenteeism related to mental health issues is 4.4 times the cost of absenteeism. And the cost they had for employee turnover is 1.1 times the cost of employee absenteeism. So with we’ve tried to address that make it a very easy thing to measure. And on the homepage of the week here 365 website, we’ve got a mental mental health calculator, which you just put in the number of employees, your estimated average salary, it adds on Super, and then does those calculations to bring the total figures. It’s a huge number in any organisation, it is huge. It’s an end, you know, if you were able to reduce that cost by 10% 20%, it would be an astronomical return on investment, absolutely astronomical. And, you know, I love the work you’re doing to help identify some of these root causes, who also need to really push this financial cost of doing nothing as well. Yeah,

 

Jason van Schie  27:13

I’ll have to check out your calculator versus ours. I look because we’ve got a calculator on our website too, which looks at absenteeism, presenteeism, then turnover costs, were using an Australian study which found that on average, four days per employee were lost to stress for absenteeism, and then six days due to presenteeism, so I have seen varying estimates right of like, like you say, the Deloitte one has 4.4 times absenteeism as presenteeism. Think that I saw someone claiming 10 times greater, which I think is a bit of a furphy. So as as more conservative, so I’d be interested to to compare the two. But what I found, like if you think about it, like PWC, did one of the earliest ROI studies right? Back in 2014. On You know, what is the return on investment you can see for mental health interventions in the workplace. Yeah, that was $2.40. back then. And I think that latest one that you’ve run, you mentioned from Deloitte was at 619 pounds per pound. And in any case, what we found is it doesn’t matter what the return on investment is that the dollar or pound amount is not moving the needle. It is not for US companies to thoroughly review what they’re doing, where they’re spending the money, how effective that is. Definitely not to the same degree as what regulations have. So, so interesting, right, because like, we’ve been working on this exclusively psych, health and safety for five years, knowing that this was the right thing to do. We needed to take more of a systems based approach and a risk based approach. And but it wasn’t until it became regulated in Australia. And most states now have regulations in force around this, that have, we started to see like just this massive flood of companies going alright, now we need to do it that way. Because we have to do it that way. We’re told we have to. So it’s interesting. And it’s an observation I made over the last 10 years having worked worked in this space for a period of time, like yourself, Graham, probably a few more years than I do. But I have not seen that ROI. Because it’s been good, good research out there good studies from top four, you know, accountants is sorry. Management Consultants, all the rest, has not moved the needle in the way that we’ve wanted to. And we’ve continued to see that increasing rate of mental ill health in organisations over the last 10 years,

 

Graeme Cowan  29:40

but they’re not measuring it. You know, it’s not there. You know, as I said, 90% of CFOs. Don’t know what the cost is. And

 

Jason van Schie  29:48

this is this is also the problem growing like if you escalate any ROI study, any benchmark, in fact, up to an exact level, I’ll give you 1010 reasons, at least what doesn’t apply to them and why they’re different. So we always say the best data and organisation can have is their own. So like you say, they should be measuring all of their own factors like absenteeism, they should try and work out presenters, and they should work out their turnover costs, and try and work out what proportion of that is related to mental health, get their own data. And that’s This is also for anyone working in an organisation and trying to get the ear of the C suite, in your own data, they’ll make a much more compelling argument than using this. This, you know, this data from management consultants, as an industry benchmark, I have not seen that move the needle. But I have seen it internal data, like you’re referring to Graham, you know, actually capture the, the hearts and minds of the exec,

 

Graeme Cowan  30:39

it should be on the board’s agenda. You know, they’re responsible for the health and well being the employees, why isn’t on boards agenda, in fact, find someone to really drill about that in the board side of things, because they’re responsible for the risk, why are they responsible for the cost? Why are they making sure that the costs being monitored?

 

Jason van Schie  30:59

Yeah, and I think, you know, cost is one thing, but there’s other, you know, factors that they can take into as well, like, you know, what are our gaps to compliance? And are we, you know, are we compliant? What is our lag data that we’ve got, so how many, you know, mental injuries that we’re having, how many? How many days of leave have had been accrued, which can give you an idea that people are taking their breaks that they’re supposed to? How many overtime hours are being worked. So there’s a number of factors and Tegan Waterman, who’s the chief mental health officer at Queensland Rail, recently shared with me her dashboard that she’s got, which is basically identified all the different data sources that she could get a hands on across the organisation that feeds up into a Power BI dashboard. That gives her a really good sense that she can then report very easily then to the executive board around this is the state of play in relation to mental health in the organisation. And only part of that is the ROI, if you like,

 

Graeme Cowan  31:58

who’s been a really important mentor in your career. Is there anyone been one? Or a few people JSON? Or books? or what have you found really influential in your life?

 

Jason van Schie  32:14

Yeah, I guess I’m just always curious about not just my subject matter. So it’s like health and safety and organisational psychology in general. But I guess around running a business, and that includes all things like, you know, how do you lead? Well, how do you do marketing? Well, how do you do sales? How do you generate a community and build a brand? Like, I’m interested in all that stuff? In fact, you know, back in the day when I was in Year 12, my my first preference when going to uni, which I didn’t get was to do it. Commerce and psychology degree, because they kind of my two passions, and as a CEO, now I get to, you know, to exercise both of those, which is great. But I guess Yeah, I learned from a lot of different sources. So I learned a lot from podcasts that people like Adam Grant, I really look up to as someone who’s like, very good at understanding the academic side, but then making it really easily, or he translated things very, very easily for him, translates it into something that is operational. Same with people like Drew Ray and David proven in the Health and Safety Sense. They have a great podcast called safety at work, sort of the safety of work. And they again, take good research and then distill it down into this is actually what it means and how you would actually use it. trailblazers in this area, I really look up to people like Marianne Bateson, who hosted our Canada version of the podcast, she is referred to as the godmother of psych, health and safety over in Canada for her involvement in the development of the national standard. And she’s a good friend of mine. And other people like David burrows, Angela Martin, here in in Australia and Tegan Waterman as well, you know, I see them as being really influential in how I look at mental health in the workplace. And really what we’re doing at flourish dx is standing on the shoulders of giants, if you like in terms of all the work that’s gone before us over the last couple of decades. And now we’re really making it something that organisations can pick up on. So there’s there’s a few names, people have thought

 

Graeme Cowan  34:16

about from a leadership perspective, obviously, and I’m Grant covers that sort of area, but they’re particularly other podcasts that dove into the leadership side of things or their books that have had a big impact on you. If you read books in the last couple of years. What comes to mind about leadership and culture in terms of being influential?

 

Jason van Schie  34:40

Yeah, I’m actually fortunate to be surrounded by some successful CEOs myself, who I get more than that through mentoring. I guess, you know, having studied and being immersed in organisational psychology for close to 20 years now, you know, a lot of the concepts around leadership, you know, pretty well and still So I really like, you know, learning from people’s experiences and being able to reflect on, you know, what’s going on at the moment in my work. And then, you know, people being able to draw out, you know, anecdotes from their own experience and sharing those with me timely, when it’s timely for me. So yeah, there’s a couple of CEOs in particular who hadn’t quite successful careers, you know, they’re kind of a good sounding board for me. And then a fellow director in flourish dx, who, you know, it’s been on board since we we started this journey, you know, quite a while ago, first raise money for the business back in 2009. And he’s been a really great sounding board, as well. Fabulous.

 

Graeme Cowan  35:41

Have you ever had a significant setback in your career?

 

Jason van Schie  35:48

You haven’t done a startup Have you grown? Nothing that’s killed me. But there’s some definitely some near death experiences. It’s called the Valley of Death for a reason when you’re doing a startup. I remember, even as recently as about four years ago, taking a screenshot of our banking, bank bank balance, which was less than $200. At the time, we’re fortunate to have taken on some private equity last year, very healthy cash balance at the moment, but, you know, I’ve taken that screenshot to remind me that there have been some tough times and, you know, it’s, yeah, a lot, a lot of near death experiences, grind, but nothing that was a significant setback that I couldn’t recover from. Well,

 

Graeme Cowan  36:32

having $200 in the bank, is a pretty scary thing, when

 

Jason van Schie  36:36

you’ve got three employees.

 

Graeme Cowan  36:40

What did? How did you approach that? You obviously, must have been fearful of not being able to pay salaries and all that sort of thing. Have you processed and able to move as you move through that valley of death with that particular situation where you had just $200? In the bank? Yeah,

 

Jason van Schie  36:56

so I guess, um, you know, at that time, it was just me and three software developers, right, including my CTO, and we, it was really on me to like, you know, decide what is it that the market wanted, and then to market it to sell it to, you know, make sure you invoice and got the money in and had the cash flow and all the rest. And at that time, it was I knew we had a big deal that was about to land and there was money coming in. But again, it was because of the trust that I was able to have built up in that in the team, them knowing I always had that back. And there was times where I wouldn’t pay myself in order to make sure that I was paying, paying them. And they were they were aware of that. And in this case, I knew that one member of the team that were attending before at the time, couldn’t go without missing a salary. And I knew there was money coming in within, you know, money. I think it was only three or four days late, right that I had to pay a couple of other employees. But I just had that discussion saying, Hey, I know you guys are okay. You don’t live week to week like this other person does? Like, are you happy if I pay you a few days later this week? So it’s just that and I guess, you know, just, and I’ve got all of those people still on board in the company, right? I think when you you treat people like that you and Simon Sinek talks about it a lot, right? Putting leaders eat last, you know, put other people first you’re responsible for making sure that they get theirs before you get yours. I think they’ve seen that over and over again. And you know, that’s, that’s kind of like how I lead, making sure that everyone gets what they need. And then I work out what’s left for me to take it.

 

Graeme Cowan  38:25

What do you do with your team to make it psychologically safe people feel safe caring in it, you may have or suggesting new things or out of left field? How do you make it safe?

 

Jason van Schie  38:37

Ah, Graham, I’ve been incredibly successful. For any psychological safety, probably to my detriment, people are very, very happy to tell me what they think. And I think, look, a humor is one of my character strengths. And self deprecation is one of my go to. So you know, people say that I take the piss out of myself. And so they’re willing to like point out as well when I make an error in judgment. But I guess it’s how I have been responding historically, as well. Right? Where I’ve been willing to admit, actually, you know, what? I don’t know. And I’m very willing to say to people, when I recruit them, hey, this is a gap that I have in my own understanding or my own skill set. That’s why I’m recruiting you, right? I like what Steve Jobs says about that, you know, we don’t recruit smart people to tell them what to do. We recruit them to tell us what to do, right? And something that I’m, I guess we live every day here. Like we got very intelligent people across the board in very different disciplines. In some sense. We’ve got some great management consultants, financial people, psychologists, obviously, software developers, engineers, they all bring different skill sets, and I’m not going to be a master of all those things. So people are very willing to tell me, You know what they really think and my wife, in fact, has visited some once and she got quite shocked. how blunt they could be they look at their boss, I’m like, Yeah, but I’d say more as a team, right? We’re all going towards the same thing. And we don’t all have the answer ourselves, we need to leverage the experience and knowledge that other people have. What do

 

Graeme Cowan  40:15

you do for your own self care? How do you keep fuel in your tank?

 

Jason van Schie  40:21

Yeah, I practice energy management. In fact, I saw Mr. Beast, who some of your listeners might not know that one of the most successful content creators, if not the most successful content creators on YouTube ever. And he talks about how he would work in stints where he might work 10 days straight, and then just collapse for a day or two. And I find myself I’m probably the same, like, I’ll work over weekends. And I’ll do it. And I do quite a bit of work outside of work with my kids, like they have hectic sporting schedules and whatnot. So I really just need to practice energy management. And you know, on a Tuesday afternoon, if I’m knackered, we’ve got to catch in the dark room or go home, have a nap. Sometimes I’ll just make sure when I get home, the laptop stays in the bag, it doesn’t come out, you know, for for the evening. You know, so I do that. And then you know, I try and eat well during the week in particular, I you know, try and exercise, those sorts of things. I’m, I am someone who really likes my sleep as well. So I’m getting seven to nine hours consistently to. But the big thing for me is energy management, right? If my body’s telling you, hey, you’re exhausted, you’re tired. Take a nap don’t work tonight. That sort of thing. I remember giving us two weeks ago, right? It was one o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and actually didn’t have any more meetings for the rest of the day. And I was knackered I’ve done a trip to New Zealand. That was all 15 hours in the country. So it was like, Yeah, I’m exhausted. I’m done my time this week. I’m out of here. So yeah, that’s, that’s a big thing for me.

 

Graeme Cowan  41:52

One of the things I do with my keynotes is ask people what what are their mood vampires? What are the things that are really giving them a hard time or a tough time? And usually one of the highest is not enough quality sleep? How do you make sure you get seven to nine hours?

 

Jason van Schie  42:08

Um, just give us one second there. I did have a meeting that was supposed to be at one o’clock. Is it? Is it possible to record the rest of this? Later today? Graham, if you go? Yeah. Should be I think should be? Yeah, it’s a it’s a prospective client rights, first of all, so I really want to get on

 

Graeme Cowan  42:29

right now. Okay. All right. Jason, I know you’ve got a number of resources and services on your website and a conference coming up towards you. But a quick background about that.

 

Jason van Schie  42:45

Yeah, as I mentioned, one of the key pillars for us at flourish dx is education. So we have a weekly podcast, which again, you featured on grandmum, some little while ago, now, the psych health and safety podcast, but 150 or so episodes are in our back catalogue. So if you’re interested in what we’ve talked about today, then that’s a great resource. We do have a free E Learning Academy called the flourish DX Academy, which you can find just by doing a Google search. And it’s got free training on things like the ISO 45,003 standard for Psych health and safety at work and how to conduct a psychosocial risk assessment and things like that. We run pretty much fortnightly webinars for free for internal people and safety professionals. And you can find that on Eventbrite. If you look up flourish, dx. And then finally, yeah, as you mentioned, we’re really excited to be announcing our first big two day in person and hybrid conference, that will be in Sydney on 19th, the 20th of next year in June. And we’re flying over some great international speakers like Michael Leiter, and then some great international experts, either speaking from expertise in academic perspective, or giving some really great case studies about what they’re doing well in their organisation.

 

Graeme Cowan  43:58

And if you had to, you know, suggests one new ritual that a manager or leader could incorporate every day to improve or reduce psychosocial risk, what would that be? I know, there’s no one size fits all. But do you have a thought about something simple that people could do every day?

 

Jason van Schie  44:18

Yeah, and it’s probably more so to do with the team, right? I found role clarity is something that can cause a lot of undue stress, but can actually be one of the easiest things to eliminate as it has it as well. When we talked about the hierarchy of controls, particularly when you apply it the psychosocial risk. Elimination can be hard. I mean, you can’t eliminate workload, right? But there are specific hazards you can and just people not being aware of, you know, what is their responsibilities? Where does it begin and end? How they going to be successful? What are the priorities maybe of the business on a given month, week, year, whatever. So just getting alignment so we actually initiated that, not not necessarily a daily but a weekly align I’m in session with our marketing team, I work on wins often. And they were getting quite stressed out by me just putting these things that seemed to be coming out of the blue at them all the time. So we initially initiated just a short 10 to 20 minute meeting on Monday morning going, Hey, these are the things that we’re thinking about over the coming week. So if it does land on your desk with a short turnaround time, you know, prioritise that over everything else. That’s the priority. But just be aware, it’s coming. So it just created a lot less, you know, stress about oh, crap, what’s gonna let us care this week and be asked to be turned around within the next hour?

 

Graeme Cowan  45:37

Yeah, no worries. And just a couple of things that are a few things that we hit 365 provide that website, you should know we’re here 365 dot com.au. We’ve got that mental ill health calculator, we only have put in the number of employees and the average salary to get a good figure there. And the money you could save if you reduced it by 20%. The other thing we have is a building mentally healthy culture checklist, where we have all the things about launching initiative home great launch and keeping that momentum going for over a year afterwards. And our we care manager training program, it’s 15 minutes of the learning, followed by 12 nudge videos about two minutes each, so one per week. And it’s just little idea to create more humanity in the workplace. You know, there’s an idea about, you know, really ask people how they’re going shopping and really asking at listen about, you know, just simple things we can do. Each day. I finished by always asking this question, Jason, if you could go back now to your 18 year old self when you were like, it’s just beginning your psychology? Nine what you know now, what advice would you give your 18 year old self?

 

Jason van Schie  47:01

That’s a good one. Well, back when I was 18, I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do with my psychology degree. So you’re right, I would have been in my first year at that stage. And I think at the time actually wanting to be a Christian counselor, not really understanding the full breadth of what you know you can do with the discipline of psychology. So yeah, look, maybe I would have encouraged myself to look at things like organisational psychology, which I didn’t even know existed as a discipline at the time. But also, yeah, just yet, but be willing to look at more systems systems thinking maybe it’s took me a while, right. But me probably 10 years of my working career as a psychologist to start thinking more about systems rather than individuals. So maybe yeah, maybe starting to think more about that systems and looking at things through systems things first, then the individual.

 

Graeme Cowan  47:55

Great one. And if you’re just listening to the caring CEO, for the first time, we’ve got 55 episodes now published within view, we describe a caring CEO as a senior leader that champions a culture of care and a culture of high performance. Some of the people that we’ve interviewed in the last couple of years include the CEO of Microsoft, CEO of Bunnings, Deloitte, the Secretary of the Department of customer service in New South Wales, the CEO of solid foundation, are you okay? The Wayside Chapel in Sydney. So check it out. There might be some a bit of inspiration there for you as well. Thanks for being part of the caring co just to really get Thanks for being part of the caring CEO Jason.

 

Jason van Schie  48:41

Thanks again for having me, Graeme.

 

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