Stressed man at work

10 June 2021 posted by Recovery Partners

What are psychosocial hazards at work and why are we talking about them?

At the very least, the global pandemic has brought mental health to the forefront of many minds, from individuals to businesses. Through necessity, adaptability and humanity, many employers are addressing psychosocial hazards at work by implementing hybrid working models, offering ‘doona days’ and even allowing employees to bring pets into the workplace.

Despite these efforts, many Australians believe more can be done to achieve mentally healthy workplaces.

To add to the conversation, in May 2021, SafeWork NSW developed and delivered a Code of Practice which provides practical guidance on managing psychosocial hazards at work.

Understanding psychosocial hazards at work is important, so let’s define exactly what they are and how they can be addressed.

Psychosocial hazards at work

Essentially, psychosocial hazards in the workplace are factors that increase the risk of work-related stress. They relate to demands within the workplace that can be detrimental to an employee’s wellbeing if not appropriately addressed or adequate resources are not available to support the worker.

Job demands include:

  • Role overload
  • Role ambiguity
  • Role conflict
  • Cognitive demand
  • Emotional demand
  • Group task conflict
  • Group relationship conflict

Role overload involves an employee simply doing too much. Workers are tasked with one thing after another, after another and have no time to scratch, let alone take regular breaks to reduce stress.

Role ambiguity is when the job task or description is unclear. Workers are unsure what it is they should be doing, and who should be doing what.

Role conflict occurs when there are incompatible demands placed on an employee. In short, the worker is being given tasks outside their usual job description and they are unable to complete these tasks efficiently and effectively.

Cognitive demand can be seen in jobs that require extensive thinking and long periods of concentration, such as surgeons, pharmacists, lab workers and lawyers.

Emotional demand is more prevalent in front line worker industries such as health, hospitality and retail.

Group task conflict arises when employees disagree with one another and have strong differences in viewpoints, ideas and opinions about the work at hand. (Remember trying to do group assignments at school or university? Yep, think along those lines).

Group relationship conflict occurs when employees do not get along. This conflict typically involves tension, annoyance and animosity between people.

How to address psychosocial hazards at work

Identify
To address psychosocial hazards in the workplace, first you need to identify what the hazards are. Identifying the hazards can be done through a psychological Job Task Analysis (JTA). This involves an objective analysis of the essential cognitive, emotional and psychological components and demands of the job, as well as the skills and behaviour required to perform the job.

Measure and analyse
The next steps involve measuring the psychosocial hazards and analysing the results. To measure and analyse, you can conduct a survey. People at Work is Australia’s only validated psychosocial risk assessment survey. People At Work is grounded in research and helps businesses to create a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. The survey is part of a five step process you can use to identify, assess and control risks to psychological health at work. Recovery Partners can help you with all five steps, from implementing the survey, evaluating the results and taking action.

Take action
Finally, after identifying and measuring the psychosocial hazards, it is time to take action and implement strategies. Every role will have different job demands. Based on analysis of the survey data, Recovery Partners will tailor training programs specific to your organisational needs. Our Mental Health Training (SafeMinds) is delivered by experienced, registered psychologists and we have assisted many organisations, with bespoke mental health training packages. Our customers have included Hoyts, Mirvac, Mounties group, Mister Minit and Transit Systems.

Remember, a healthy and happy workplace is more productive, has less staff turnover, and fewer OHS accidents.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au