Psychosocial risks

Are you aware of psychosocial risks in the workplace? When these risks are high, ill health, poor performance, absences, strikes and conflict can result, says Ann McCracken.

Stress

“When psychosocial risks are low, good psychosocial health results. This means that staff at all levels can exhibit mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that a healthy mind and a contented heart are just as important as the pills we use for the prevention and treatment of ill health conditions.”

Last week (20th – 24th October) the European Health and Safety at Work Week focused on the key psychosocial risks in the workplace.

Psychosocial is the word used to describe the psychological state of an individual in relation to their social and or work environment. Psychosocial risks are the challenges faced in the workplace and the key areas are defined by the HSE as:

  • Control – the amount of control an individual has, to be able to carry out their work
  • Support – the level of support an individual receives from their manager and colleagues relating to work, resources and information
  • Demands – the work expected for a specific role is commensurate with the employee’s skills, abilities and capabilities
  • Relationships – people experience a positive working environment and are not subjected to unacceptable behaviour or conflict
  • Role – individuals understand their role within the organisation and it does not conflict with other roles
  • Change – individuals should feel the organisation engages them frequently and manages their expectations of changes

When these risks are low, good psychosocial health results. This means that staff at all levels can exhibit mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that a healthy mind and a contented heart are just as important as the pills we use for the prevention and treatment of ill health conditions.

When psychosocial risks are high, ill health (stress), poor performance, absences, strikes and conflict result, all of which affect morale and increase overheads.

Top tips to tackle psychosocial risks:

  • Regularly conduct a risk assessment – this will help to identify which of the six risk factors are an issue (hot spots) and where best practice flourishes (great spots). From this changes and training needs at all levels can be identified and compared with the previous results.
  • Management training is key to ensuring that staff feel that they receive the clear direction, relevant support and training they need to reduce the likelihood of healthy pressure developing into unwanted stress. Any management training should also recognise that managers are not mind readers and that they should receive guidance how to monitor signs of workplace risks that can lead to stress, such as excessively long working hours, presenteeism, absence, changed behaviour etc…
  • Communicate clearly that the organisation takes the results of high psychosocial risks seriously and then consistently show staff you mean it by your actions and words.
  • Any assessment and management training should also be supported with a clear psychosocial/stress/wellbeing policy that outlines the company’s acknowledgement of the potential damaging effects of workplace psychosocial risks and the commitment to identify and reduce the effects by defining the specific options in place and how to access them e.g. policies & procedures, EAP, occupational health, counselling, health screening, wellbeing champions etc.

About Ann McCracken

Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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