Psychosocial risks and work-related stress are among the most challenging topics in occupational health & safety

 

They impact significantly on the health of individuals and organizations

 

Around half of European workers consider stress to be common in their workplace, and it contributes to around half of all lost working days. Among the most frequently mentioned causes of work-related stress are job reorganization or job insecurity, working long hours or excessive workload, and harassment and violence at work.

Like many other issues surrounding mental health, stress is often misunderstood or stigmatized. However, when viewed as an organizational issue rather than an individual fault, psychosocial risks and stress can be just as manageable as any other workplace safety and health risk.

There is a need for raising awareness and simple practical tools facilitating dealing with work-related stress, violence and harassment. Alcor Executive has developed a preventive, holistic and systematic approach to assessing psychosocial risks. This Risk assessment tool provides information and practical support on identifying, preventing and managing psychosocial risks and work-related stress.

Managing psychosocial risks and work-related stress is not just a moral obligation and a good investment for employers, it is a legal imperative set out by the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work. It encourages employers to implement additional, voluntary measures to promote mental well-being.

Although employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that workplace risks are properly assessed and controlled, it is essential that workers are also involved. Workers and their representatives have the best understanding of the problems that can occur in their workplace. Involving them will ensure that the measures put in place are both appropriate and effective.

 

What are psychosocial risks and stress?

Psychosocial risks arise from poor work design, organization and management, as well as a poor social context of work, and they may result in negative psychological, physical and social outcomes such as work-related stress, burnout or depression. Some examples of working conditions leading to psychosocial risks are:

  • Excessive work-load
  • Conflicting demands and lack of role clarity
  • Lack of involvement in making decisions that affect the worker and lack of influence over the way the job is done
  • Poorly managed organizational change, job insecurity
  • Ineffective communication, lack of support from management or colleagues
  • Psychological and sexual harassment, third party violence

 

When considering the job demands, it is important not to confuse psychosocial risks such as excessive workload with conditions where, although stimulating and sometimes challenging, there is a supportive work environment in which workers are well trained and motivated to perform to the best of their ability. A good psychosocial environment enhances good performance and personal development, as well as workers’ mental and physical well-being.

Workers experience stress when the demands of their job are excessive and greater than their capacity to cope with them. In addition to mental health problems, workers suffering from prolonged stress can go on to develop serious physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal problems.

For the organization, the negative effects include poor overall business performance, increased absenteeism and presentism (workers turning up for work when sick and unable to function effectively) and increased accident and injury rates. Absences tend to be longer than those arising from other causes and estimates of the cost to businesses are significant.

 

The Alcor Executive Risk Assessment tool is designed to help employers assess their legal obligations to manage risks associated with psychological injury. Don’t hesitate to contact the team for further information.

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