Psychological contracts in the workplace: gift or grenade?

For many, the return to work will feel tentative. Having spent time in festive mode, enjoying the comfort of home, the safety of all that is familiar and traditional, stepping back in the uncertain landscape of 2023 weighs on us. Dare we exhale. Have our thoughts about our career shifted? Are we uncertain about our new capacities?

The psychological contracts in place in the workplace can feel like they have changed. A psychological contract is a kind of unspoken agreement between an employer and an employee. It outlines what each party expects from the other, as well as their responsibilities and obligations. This contract is shaped by the employee’s interactions and experiences with their employer, and can be influenced by factors like company culture, management style, and individual values. When first engaged – the contract may have felt like a gift, a welcome enhancement to one’s career. With all that has taken place in the last two years, many employees are re-thinking their priorities, and therefore re-thinking the psychological contracts in place.

The psychological contract can have a big impact on an employee’s job satisfaction, commitment to the company, and overall performance. When the contract is seen as fair and fulfilling, it can lead to positive outcomes for both the employee and the employer. But if the contract is perceived as unfair or unfulfilling, it can cause problems like low motivation and high turnover, like a grenade waiting to explode.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the psychological contracts at work for many organisations and employees. Some of the ways in which the pandemic may have changed psychological contracts include:

  1. Changes in job roles and responsibilities: Many employees have had to adapt to new roles and responsibilities due to the pandemic, such as transitioning to remote work or taking on additional tasks. After the festive period, there can be a greater desire to capture the closeness and familiarity of home. This can alter the expectations and obligations outlined in the psychological contract.
  2. Increased stress and uncertainty: The pandemic has brought about increased stress and uncertainty for many employees, which can affect the psychological contract. Being closer in contact with family and friends this holiday period may have brought a deeper awareness of the fragility of life and relationships. Employers may need to offer additional support and resources to help employees cope with the conflicting dynamics of returning to work.
  3. Changes in company policies: The pandemic has also led to changes in company policies, such as leave policies and health and safety protocols. These changes can alter the expectations and obligations outlined in the psychological contract. Having a break from the work space may have created an awareness of uncertainty or dissatisfaction with these changes.

It can be tempting to let time erode these uncertainties. However, as deeply psychological beings, the organisation that promotes opportunity to listen and elicit feedback, will win trust and belonging in their teams. Leaders can think about:

  1. Communicating openly and transparently: how have you navigated these dynamics yourself? What have you found to help?
  2. Offer support and resources: Leaders can provide support and resources to help employees navigate the return to work, such as regular check-ins, eliciting feedback and welcoming requests for support.
  3. Encourage open communication and feedback: Leaders an encourage open communication and feedback from employees and be open to negotiating changes to the psychological contract as needed.

By implementing these strategies, companies can help employees feel more supported and valued as they navigate the return to work and any changes to the psychological contract. This can foster a positive and productive work environment and help build trust and commitment from employees.

Christmas overwhelm

Most of us welcome the festive season with anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm. Others may see it as a burden. Still others may have feelings in between these extremes, relishing some aspects of the holidays but dreading others. Heavy traffic, large crowds of shoppers, long lines at stores and post offices, bad weather and other hassles can make things worse if you aren’t prepared for them or don’t know how to deal with them effectively. Financial pressures may be particularly difficult during this time of year as many people spend more money than usual on gifts and travel to visit relatives. Many people can experience overwhelm by trying to do too much during the holidays – working extra hours at their job, planning family gatherings and buying gifts for their loved ones – without giving themselves a break or learning how to say no to something that will cause them unnecessary stress.  The holiday season is a stressful time of year as it’s often when we ask the most from ourselves and our family members.

Commonly, as psychologists we see many who will be working through their grief – remembering loved ones who will not be sitting around the family Christmas lunch. There may be some who are dealing with painful relationship breaks, disagreements over where children will spend Christmas, longing and loneliness for happy scenarios that are not a personal reality.

There can be a wide range of responses in workplaces—from enthusiasm to dread—it’s important for employers to understand what their staff might be going through during this busy time of year so they can provide support where needed. Here are some ways to share and care during the festive season as a team:

  • Normalise the load and encourage realistic expectations and pacing. Does it have to be finished this end of the year? Can it be dealt with in the new year? Driven teams can have unrealistic expectations to bring closure to projects and tasks before the year ends.
  • Create a schedule that works for everyone. Rosters, meetings, social functions – they collide with end of year school performances, last minute Christmas shopping and social functions. Check in with your team for what might be happening in their worlds, and find a common ground so that work schedules are not one more thing to have to juggle.
  • Encourage staff to unplug and recharge their batteries. Model the way by checking in and sharing ideas and encouragements for simply stopping, simplifying and recharging.
  • Set a cut off time for work email, phone calls and other distractions so you can fully enjoy your time away from work with your family or friends. Overtly make silent time after work hours – no more emails, tests, work communication after a certain time, so teams can switch off and switch into their personal mode
  • Make the office festive socials inclusive and sensitive to those who may be having a difficult time

While the rest of the world seems to be dazzled and dazed by the festive season, the workplace can be a space for our team to feel valued, a solid sense of belonging and maintaining their focus and perspective.

Encourage healthy living and being in the workplace

We spend the majority of our lives at our workplace. At the best of times the workplace provides avenues to socialise, derive achievement and provide a pathway for personal and professional growth. Spending that many hours of our life in a workplace also means that is the place where the majority of our unhealthy habits manifest and magnify.

Workplace wellbeing that shines a light on health practices while at the workplace provide a way for organisations to be a part of investing in their teams at a fundamental level of health.

Spotlight on healthy eating

Encouraging healthy eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy workplace. Yet many workplaces have a culture of rushed lunches, lunches at desks while working, snacking on unhealthy options and consuming more caffeine than water to provide energy and focus.

There are several ways to encourage employees to eat healthy, including:

  • Offering healthy food options in the office. Provide employees with snacks that encourage your employees to eat fresh fruit, nuts, wholegrain and energy enhancing foods and drinks
  • Encourage staff to take full lunchtime breaks. Appoint lunchtime mascots to encourage everyone to take a break.
  • Stock up the pantry with well thought through options, purchase food from health stores so that meetings and breaks have these options.
  • If possible, offer some sort of space where you can take a meal break during the day. Generate interest in your teams for them to share their latest mealtime spots.

Encourage movement during work.

Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Remedial Massage therapists will attest to the change in posture and muscle tension related ailments. With the advance of portable devices and laptops, remote working and high reliance on digital communication, our teams are frozen in unhealthy positions. Consider:

  • Have an ergonomics specialist assess your space and provide tips for your staff to improve their physical health while at work
  • Strategically place common workplace appliances/utilities in a space which would require some movement. For example, printers can be placed on the opposite side of the room.
  • Initiate walk and talk meetings. Not all meetings need to be at a desk. Co-workers can be encouraged to head out into the fresh air and sun to meet
  • Provide a stand and stretch station. Consider playing a 2-3 minute Youtube video that sets an example of how to take a break every few hours to stand and stretch.

Healthy work practices provide our teams to spend the majority of their hours taking care of the foundations of good health and mental health. Encouraged as a whole, the culture can shift to making small changes that lead to lasting health outcomes.

Work life collision in our workplaces

In the corporate wellness world, we’re seeing more and more clients with stress, burnout and other psychological issues — not just physical ones.


Wait lists to see psychologists are impossibly long. The impact of the pandemic has left our mental health resources depleted. These wait lists are now heavily populated by professionals and executives who are desperately trying to get their focus and game back on. The fact is, even being on the right wait list is a challenge. No two psychologists are the same. Not every psychologist who works in the mental health scene work with the organisational implications of workplace wellness.

One client of ours explained:

“I spent too much time with my last psychologist unpacking my family history. Sessions were focused on my past and robbed me of the time I needed to work on my NOW”

Understanding the crisis of performance, livelihood and employees’ needs to get on top of their work is imperative in the current climate.

In fact, Work life collision (WLC) dominates our workplace wellbeing problems. It happens when employees become overwhelmed by the demands of their job as well as battling personal issues on the home front.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – quoted directly from their website here (August, 2022)

  • Between 16 March 2020 and 1 May 2022, over 29.0 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services were processed.
  • MBS-subsidised mental health services delivered via telephone or videoconference peaked during April 2020 when about half were delivered via telehealth. In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, 29.3% of services were delivered via telehealth.
  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Lifeline received 83,652 calls, up 2.5% and 0.2% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
  • In the four weeks to 20 February 2022, Kids Helpline received 23,575 answerable contact attempts, down 5.5% and 9.8% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Beyond Blue received 24,441 contacts, up 10.0% and down 7.0% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

These statistics reflect a parent, a child, a friend, a client, a colleague and is bound to have impacted your staff wellbeing and morale.

With work life collision only set to increase, you will find the 6 EAP sessions provided inadequate. At The Centre for Effective Serving, we can deploy Clinical Psychology resources for your team. We are a team of psychologists who have worked in the burnout space long before the pandemic swept our world. We already worked in the space of immediate, practical and solution focussed support to workplaces. We can provide confidential telehealth sessions to provide the support and expert care that your staff need without having to leave your premises or their homes. Contact us at

The mental health agenda in workplaces

Workplace wellbeing and the mental health agenda

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of a healthy workplace. What we’re talking about here is more than just a few yoga classes and a weekly massage – it’s about creating a culture where employees feel happy, engaged, safe and valued. And it’s not just about what happens at work either; research shows that there is a direct link between employee wellbeing and business growth.

Mental health at work: The statistics

Mental health is a growing issue in the workplace, and not just because it’s been featured in the media so much lately. Mental health issues are on the rise, especially among young people. According to one study, 44% of young people say they have experienced a mental illness or condition at some time in their life (Young Minds). Another report found that 75% of employers believe that stress levels have risen over the last decade (Mind).
In fact, it’s estimated that 120 million working days were lost due to stress-related issues such as anxiety and depression between 2008 and 2018 (Mind). The cost of mental health issues in the workplace is high; for example:

£4 billion lost due to absenteeism
£6 billion spent on sick pay each year

Loneliness and work

Loneliness is a growing problem in the workplace. A recent study of over 200,000 participants found that people who work long hours tend to be lonelier than those who work fewer hours, and that loneliness increases with age. This may be partly because of the loss of social networks that comes with retirement, but it’s also likely due to job stressors such as long commuting times and demanding workloads.
Loneliness can increase risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels. It has also been linked to poor sleep quality as well as increased alcohol consumption, smoking rates and substance abuse – all factors which can further damage health outcomes.

Employee burnout and mental health at work

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. It can lead to depression and anxiety if left untreated, as well as a loss of motivation and productivity at work.
When you’re working in an environment where you don’t feel supported or challenged enough, there’s more chance that you’ll feel stressed at work. Stress can be good when it keeps us alert and focused on achieving our goals—but too much stress over time can lead to burnout.

Workplace wellbeing, employee engagement and mental health

By contrast, a positive culture where employees feel supported and engaged is likely to be more effective at improving mental health. Engaged employees are more productive, loyal, innovative and creative. They are also less likely to take time off sick or experience high levels of stress.
In workplaces with good employee engagement scores, around one in five employees report feeling low or very low levels of stress compared with one in three workers who have low engagement scores. The difference between these figures highlights the potential benefits that workplace wellbeing activities can have on reducing stress levels among staff members – particularly if they’re supported by a positive company culture and healthy management practices that encourage employee engagement.

It’s important to note that while it’s important for managers to understand what contributes towards creating better working environments there may still be some barriers which prevent them from doing so; for example limited budgets could make it difficult for companies to invest in wellbeing activities without affecting their bottom line
Workplace wellbeing, culture and mental health

The workplace environment is only one of several factors that influence employee wellbeing. Culture is another, and it’s a significant factor because it’s not just about the work environment; it also affects how people interact with each other.

Culture is more than just our working hours or how we dress for work: it can be positive or negative, depending on the values of an organization. A healthy culture supports mental health by encouraging open communication, giving support when needed and promoting good mental health practices such as mindfulness at work and healthy eating.
Workplace wellbeing, trust and mental health

Workplace wellbeing is the new way of thinking about mental health in the workplace. It’s not just a buzzword; it means that companies are taking their employees’ mental health seriously and making changes to create happier, healthier workplaces.

Workplace wellbeing doesn’t just mean giving your employees time off work. It also means creating an office environment where people feel safe and respected, have good relationships with colleagues, have fun at work and feel like they make a positive difference to their organisations.

To achieve this you need healthy trust between staff members as trust is the foundation of a healthy workplace culture. Trust is based on honesty and openness – being truthful about what you know or don’t know; being willing to listen when others talk about themselves; being open with your thoughts and feelings about work-related issues; respecting others’ opinions even if they differ from yours (or those of management). Trust grows through communication – having conversations openly about difficult subjects such as performance reviews, conflict resolution strategies etc., so everyone feels heard & valued before reaching any conclusions together which include solutions that meet everyone’s needs equally well rather than just some people at expense of others.

Mental health is an important issue that needs to be addressed at work. Employees who feel engaged and supported by their employers are more likely to be productive and resilient. This means a stronger workforce, higher profits and better business outcomes.

#workplacewellbeing #psychology #mentalhealth

What’s wrong with Quiet Quitting? It’s in the name.

What’s wrong with Quiet Quitting? It’s in the name.

Over the last three years, the presence of COVID-19 has truly tested our mental health. It has also
challenged us to rethink our life priorities. Working from home and spending more time with family
has given many of us space, independence and downtime to consider what matters to us, what we
are capable of, and what we want our own futures to look like.

The ‘quiet-quitting’ phenomenon is a good example of this: a movement to put boundaries on the
expectations employers make, and sticking firmly to set duties rather than going above and beyond.
We are more conscious of ‘presence-bleed’ now – an expectation to be passively available to one’s
employer or clients at all times, keep the inbox under control and attend to any matters of urgency
regardless of the time or day, and how that interferes with our newer outlook on life. Quiet quitting
is about taking back control, being online during set hours and making room for other people, other
projects and other sources of happiness that life can offer us once we are off the clock.
So what’s the problem here? Two words. Quiet and quitting.

Humans are not naturally motivated to settle. Most of us thrive on positive reinforcement, reward
and recognition of our unique needs through communication with supervisors, clients and peers.
Quiet means a withdrawal of that communication, a lack of confidence that our workplace can really
understand what makes us tick, and negative self-talk that the employer relationship is all one-sided.
If you or someone you know has been unhappy with their job and uttered the phrase “It’s fine, I’ll
just stop caring so much”, you know it’s only a matter of time until they are SO unhappy that finding
a new job is inevitable. Quiet means that we can’t be bullied into working harder, but it also shuts
off our perception that employment can be a source of growth, resolution and change either. If you
stick entirely to the script, your job misses out on your ideas, your individuality, your solutions and
your ambition to change things for the better. It misses the best of you.

Quitting offers moments for change. When you quit a job, the world becomes radiant with
possibility and opportunity again. The next step will be better, whether it involves a new employer,
travel, study or working for yourself. Except – quiet quitting is not about quitting at all: it’s a step
back from feeling unrewarded by extra personal exertion. You’re still in the same job, but hopefully
making space for other things. Changes in your own life might refresh your enthusiasm for your own
pursuits, fitness and the people you love, but it might also create mental blocks around your
professional ambition. Can you achieve life balance while also desiring more from your career? How
can you prove that you are the right candidate for a new internal project when you have decided
that boundaries come first? The greatest weakness of quitting but not quitting is that there is no
next step. The status quo remains. The joy in opportunities around the corner fade. Maybe the faith
is not there that they will ever come, so the next best thing is a mental fortress which protects us
from pain and hope that things can change.
COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we see work. It’s not everything any more. Busyness is
overrated. Fun, family and a different future give us hope in taking back control, customising our
time and being present for other things that feel worthy. However, that ambitious instinct won’t lay
dormant forever. To quit quietly ignores our deep need to test ourselves, belong to a group we feel

good about, take pride in our efforts and keep examining our professional problems in new ways,
looking for solutions. If quiet quitting seems appealing, maybe it’s time for quiet reflection, quiet
research and quiet preparation for speaking and acting on what you do want. If your life is going to
change in 2023, let that positivity into your work, too.