Psychosocial risks and stress at work
Psychosocial risksAnything in the design or management of work that increases the risk of work-related stress can be understood as a psychosocial hazard.
While stress itself does not constitute a physical or psychological injury, a stress response includes the physical, mental and emotional reactions that occur when a worker perceives that the demands of work exceed their ability or resources to cope. If prolonged and/or severe, work-related stress can cause both psychological and physical injuries. While pressure is normal in many workplaces, stress may result when ‘pressure becomes excessive or otherwise unmanageable’.
Common psychosocial risksThere are a variety of aspects of work which can pose psychosocial risks to workers.
Job content/task designLack of variety in the work; under-use of skills or under-skilled for work
Workload and work paceLong or unsocial work hours; shift working; inflexible hours
Job controlLack of control over job design or workload; limited participation in deciding one’s own work
Environment and equipmentUnsafe equipment and resources; poor physical working conditions (such as poor lighting, excessive or irritating noise, poor ergonomics)
Organizational cultureUnclear organizational objectives; poor communication; culture that enables discrimination or abuse
Interpersonal relationships at workSocial or physical isolation; limited support from supervisors or colleagues; authoritarian supervision and poor line management; violence, harassment or bullying; discrimination and exclusion
Role in organizationUnclear job role within the organization or team
Career developmentUnder- or over-promotion; job insecurity; poor investment in development; punitive procedures for sickness absence and performance management
Home-work interfaceConflicting home/work demands; being away from home for work
What employers can do?The key to deal with psychosocial hazards and risks in the workplace is prevention by means of:
- conducting comprehensive risk assessment, covering all aspects of work, including psychosocial hazards and risks, as it is done with other workplace hazards;
- adopting collective and individual preventive and control measures;
- increasing the coping ability of workers by increasing their control over their tasks;
- improving organizational communication;
- allowing workers’ participation in decision making;
- building up social support systems for workers within the workplace;
- taking into account the interaction between working and living conditions;
- enhancing the value placed on safety and health within the organization.