Last week, we published a blog post on the effects of stress and psychosocial risks in the workplace. The post includes information from an e-guide from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) on managing stress and psychosocial risks.
We explained workplace stress and outlined the potential consequences of workplace psychosocial stress, in terms of both worker and organizational health. In addition, stressed employees are more likely to adopt unsafe behaviors and be involved in incidents.
In this post, we highlight what organizations should do to prevent worker psychosocial stress as part of a comprehensive occupational health program, based on recommendations from the EU-OSHA e-guide.
1) Raise Awareness
The first step for employers is to raise awareness about what psychosocial risks are, and gain commitment from workers and leaders to actively prevent and manage these risks. The most important thing to communicate is that psychosocial risks in the workplace are just as important as physical hazards, and that stress is bad for both individual health and the company. Everyone in the organization needs to work together to address these risks and intervene when they see warning signs.
2) Assess Risks
The second step is to assess risks. Just as an organization would do risk assessments for other workplace hazards, the same principles apply to identify factors in the workplace that can cause or contribute to worker stress. Adapting a traditional workplace risk assessment to look for causes of psychosocial stress is a good place to start. Observing work in progress and asking workers to describe their tasks and how they feel about them is another good way to gather information for a risk assessment.
3) Take Preventive Action
Taking preventive action is the third step. The results of the risk assessment in step two will determine what employers should focus on. Typically, this will involve improving how work is managed in the organization. Preventive action will most likely address issues such as excessive demands, lack of personal control, inadequate support, poor or conflictual relationships, role conflict or lack of role clarity, and poor management of change.
4) Take Corrective Action
Taking corrective action is the fourth step. EU-OSHA experts recommend looking at the ways in which the work or workload has changed, and taking action to address issues. For example, workers may find that their training is out of date, or that they are ill-equipped to deal with the changing nature of work due to technological changes. In addition, employers can put more effort into involving workers in the decisions that affect them because not knowing what is happening is a significant source of stress. Employers can also help workers find information and support, even if the source of stress is not from the workplace.
5) Build Resilience
The fifth step consists of building resilience by strengthening employees’ health, wellbeing, and emotional resilience so that they may better face challenges. Resilience is the capacity to cope with adverse events and return to normal, even in the face of significant pressure. Employers can contribute greatly to workers’ physical and emotional wellbeing by encouraging employees to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and take time for breaks and relaxation. Employers can also build the personal resilience of workers by providing resources for positive thinking, time management, assertiveness, and goal setting.
Check out the EU-OSHA e-guide for more tips and advice.
Finally, consider the use of an occupational health software solution to safeguard worker health by better tracking employee health issues and treatment plans across the entire workforce.