Psychosocial risks and work-related stress are among the most challenging, in terms of occupational safety and health. They significantly affect the health of individuals, but also have a negative impact on companies and national economies.
About half of European workers believe stress is common in their workplace, and about 50 percent of absenteeism is due to stress. Like many other mental health problems, stress is often misunderstood or stigmatized. However, if psychosocial risks and stress are viewed as a problem at the organizational level, they can be just as manageable as any other health and safety risk in the workplace.
What are psychosocial risks and stress?
Psychosocial risks arise from inadequate work design and organization and poor work management, as well as from an unfavorable social context of work; they can have negative psychological, physical, and social effects and u. a. lead to work-related stress, burnout and depression. Working conditions that promote psychosocial risks include:
– excessive workload; – conflicting demands and unclear delineation of responsibilities; – lack of worker involvement in decisions that affect them and lack of influence over how work is performed; – poorly managed organizational changes, job insecurity; – ineffective communication, lack of management or peer support; – psychological and sexual harassment, third-party violence.
When considering job requirements, it is important not to confuse psychosocial risks such as excessive workload with conditions that may well be performance-stimulating and demanding, but are integrated into a supportive work environment in which workers are well trained and motivated to perform optimally according to their abilities. A favorable psychosocial environment promotes performance and personal development as well as the mental and physical well-being of employees.
Workers experience stress when the demands of their jobs exceed their capabilities. Prolonged stress can lead to not only psychological problems in workers, but also serious physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal disorders.
For the company, the result is poorer overall business performance, higher absenteeism, presenteeism (workers who show up to work sick and are unable to perform), and higher accident and injury rates. Stress-related absenteeism tends to be longer than absenteeism due to other causes, and work-related stress can lead to an increase in early retirements. There is a high cost to business and society, estimated to be in the billions of euros at the national level.
How big is the problem?
In an opinion poll conducted by EU-OSHA in Europe, around half of workers said that work-related stress was common in their workplace. The most frequently cited causes of work-related stress were work reorganization or job insecurity, long working hours or work overload, and harassment or violence at work. EU-OSHA provides information on current data and research on the prevalence and impact of work-related stress and psychosocial risks on health and safety.
A preventive, holistic and systematic approach to managing psychosocial risks is considered most effective. EU-OSHA's European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) examines how psychosocial risks are perceived and managed in companies across Europe and identifies key drivers, barriers and support needs. The survey shows that psychosocial risks are considered more challenging and difficult to manage than "traditional" occupational safety and health risks. Greater awareness and simple practical tools are needed to facilitate addressing work-related stress, violence and harassment. What are the prevention options. The management of psychosocial risks exists?With the right approach, psychosocial risks can be prevented or mitigated, regardless of the size or nature of the organization. Controllable. They can be addressed as logically and systematically as other occupational health and safety risks.
Stress management is not only a moral duty and a sensible investment for employers, but a legal necessity under Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, underpinned by the Social Partners' Framework Agreement on work-related stress and harassment and violence at work.
In addition, the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being recognizes the changing demands and increasing preres in the workplace and calls on employers to implement additional voluntary measures to promote mental wellbeing.
Although employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that risks in the workplace are properly assessed and controlled, it is critical to involve employees. Workers and their representatives are most aware of the problems that can occur in their workplaces. Their inclusion ensures that appropriate and effective interventions are in place.
Work-related stress: nature and management
Juliet Hassard and Tom Cox, Birkbeck College, University of London
It is widely recognised that work-related stress is one of the major contemporary challenges facing occupational health and safety. It is commonly understood that a need for stress prevention activities is prevalent in all European countries and across all types of organizations. This article will summarise the key ies in relation to work-related stress and will discuss how stress at work can best be managed.
Psychosocial risks and workers health
Marlen Hupke, Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance
Changes in the economic and social conditions have an effect on the health and safety of European workplace conditions. This article aims to give an overview on the theoretical background and current empirical findings regarding psychosocial risks, and their associated negative health outcomes for both the individual and the organization.