Work-related Stress assessment : an organizational approach
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Work-related Stress assessment : an organizational approach

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Some issues on practical application of WrS assessment in italian enterprises are pointed out, from the specific point of view of a private-held company dealing with consulting and training on safety ...

Some issues on practical application of WrS assessment in italian enterprises are pointed out, from the specific point of view of a private-held company dealing with consulting and training on safety at work.

Results from statistical analysis (conducted on a sample of 1.274 workers from 10 companies in Services; Health Care; and Industry sector) are also discussed.

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  • Good afternoon and thank you for attending my talk. In these notes, I'll try to describe some issue on practical application of WrS assessment in italian enterprises, from the specific point of view of a private-held company dealing with consulting and training on safety at work.
  • In Italy, the obligation to perform Work-related stress risk assessment has been introduced since April 2008 , following a corresponding European Framework Agreement dating back four years. Most of both employers and operators of security sector, though, found themselves unprepared on how to assess this "new" risk factor, which resulted to two suspensions of this obligation, waiting for operational guidelines by a Government Commission which are due by August 1, 2010. Nowadays the situation is still confused. It is still debated whether it is a phenomenon of organizational or individual nature , whether it should be assessed via objective tools or by using classic social research methodologies , whether employees participation should be extended or limited to few key roles, and which professional should carry out the assessment . But there’s at least one thing we know for sure : the obligation to assess Work-related stress is primarily seen as an additional economic burden by most enterprises, while it still seems unclear what could be the benefits of doing such assessment (beside fulfilling a legal obligation).
  • As you know, according to the European Framework Agreement of 2004, assessing Work-related Stress entails investigations on the organization and its processes , work environment conditions , communication flows and of course, but not exclusively, subjective factors .
  • On this regard, in 2002, some eight years ago, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work indicated some psychosocial risk factors related to Job Content and to Organizational Contexts .
  • According to all these indications, it seems that we are dealing with a systemic phenomenon concerning “aspects about the design and management of work and its social and organizational contexts that have the potential for causing psychological or physical harms”. Therefore, rather than looking for individual problems , WrS should be assessed by analyzing the relationship between individuals and their organizational contexts , in order to identify factors promoting Organizational Health.
  • In particular, Organizational Health can be defined as « the whole of organizational culture, processes and practices in workplaces, contributing to promote, maintain and improve the quality of life and the degree of physical, psychological and social communities health» A “Healthy” organisation, is not only an environment where it’s nicer to work , but also a more efficient and productive system .
  • SO, our contribution presents a model of Work-related stress assessment, - Aimed at identifying both Risk and Protective factors of Organizational Health, - based on active involvement of all workers . - integrating quantitative and qualitative data related to structures, organizational processes, and psychosocial dimensions .
  • This model has been used since 2008 for a total number of about 1500 workers from 15 companies . Planned activities can be ordered into six steps: 1 First, preliminary meetings with company stakeholders are held to illustrate procedures and tools , and to schedule subsequent activities .  Data about the company structure and functional processes (like organization chart, other Risk Evaluation Document, Corporate Training Plan, procedures, data on accidents, absenteeism and turnover) are collected, and a desk analysis is conducted. Activities to inform and involve all workers are agreed upon , by proposing meetings to introduce research aims and activities, and by providing information material to be disseminated within the company. Then, a reconnaissance of company departments follows. 2 Questionnaires are administered collectively , in sessions of about 20 participants each, under the supervision of experienced researchers. In each session participants are informed again about research aims and activities , and - in order to ensure full participation to the survey - a stringent consent procedure on handling and analyzing data collected (under Italian laws on privacy) is signed. After COMPLITION, participants return their questionnaires in sealed envelopes.
  • 3 Results from the statistical analysis are presented, in aggregated form, to the top management and stakeholders of the company. Emerging issues are discussed, in order to carry out in-depth meetings with workers. 4 Focus Group sessions are held to deepen the understanding of dynamics and cultural systems that regulate behaviours of professional groups in the company. Workers are selected according to homogeneity criteria of professional roles and representativeness of company departments.
  • 5 With all these data gathered, we proceed with formalization of the Risks Evaluation Document for WrS risks According to italian laws, this document includes description of criteria and tools used for the assessment , the findings , and the more appropriate corrective and/or improvement actions . Strategies for dissemination of results to all workers are also included. 6 After 6 months, a follow-up meeting is proposed to monitor the implementation progress of proposed actions.
  • Our study was aimed to determine Organizational Context and Job Content effects on the Organizational Health dimensions . Regarding ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT , we grouped workers : by company size , with workers belonging to Small (with 100 workers or less), Medium (from 101 to 200 workers) and Large (more than 200 workers) companies by working seniority , with workers having spent less than and more than 10 years within the same company respectively by level of Management Efficacy perception, with workers scoring below the thirtieth percentile and over the seventieth percentile respectively by level of Relationships with Colleagues perception, with workers scoring below the 30th percentile and over the 70th percentile respectively Regarding JOB CONTENT , we grouped workers : by Occupational sector , with workers belonging to Services , Health Care and Industry companies by level of E nvironmental Comfort and Safety perception, with workers scoring below the 30th percentile and over the 70th percentile respectively
  • We used the Multidimensional Organizational Health Questionnaire , consisting of 109 items assessing behaviour and situations perceived in work contexts, each related to a dimension of Organizational Health. Participants answer to each item using a 4-point scale. The dimensions assessed are: 1. Perception on Interpersonal Conflicts. Perception of conflicts or marginalization within the company (both overt and covert), not being covered by strategies to monitor the phenomenon and by measures to promote a positive organizational climate. 2. Perception of Work-Related Stress. Perception of high levels of physical and mental fatigue, isolation and stress. 3. Perception of Psychosomatic Symptoms. Perception of psychosomatic problems related to work (sleep, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, etc..). 4. Work Environmental Comfort. Perception of healthy working environment, comfortable and welcoming, in relation both to business needs and workers and/or customers needs. 5. Work Environmental Safety. Perception that one’s company takes all measures to prevent accidents and occupational hazards, by respecting and fulfilling all legal obligations on this topic and by considering safety and health as core elements of organisational identity and culture. 6. Perception of Management Efficacy. Perception that the company management pursues clear and explicit goals and keeps consistency between statements and practices. 7. Perception of Relationship with Colleagues. Perception that co-workers cooperate with each other and with the company, respect each other and find shared solutions to arising problems. 8. Perception of Company Efficiency. Perception that one’s company provides means and resources to adequately carry out the activities, ensure compliance with roles and tasks, facilitates the transmission of information, supports the research of solutions to arising challenges. 9. Perception of Organizational Equity. Perception that one’s company ensures fairness in pay, assignment of responsibilities, professional development and career paths. 10. Perception of Innovation Openness. Perception that one’s company is open to the external environment and to technological innovations, flexible and open to changes 11. Job Satisfaction. Perception of satisfaction for one’s company, characterized by a sense of pursuing a goal shared and a desire to engage actively in the organization.
  • Participants in the survey were 1274 out of the 1483 workers from 10 companies in Services ; Health Care ; and Industry sector. This is the distribution of the sample by age by job tenure and by working seniority
  • In preliminary ONE WAY ANOVA analyses, significant Gender and Age differences were found in all Organisational Health dimensions , with women (regardless of age) and older workers (regardless of gender) experiencing higher levels of Risk factors than men and younger workers. The need to undertake specific action for diversity management and protection of ageing workers has been one more time confirmed Under these findings, gender and age were included as covariates in all subsequent One-Way Univariate Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVA)
  • Regarding the impact of ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT on Organizational Health, we HAD found that: workers in Large companies experimented higher levels of all Risk factors ( Interpersonal Conflicts, Stress and Psychosomatic Symptoms ) than workers in Small or Medium companies. On the other hand, workers in Small companies experimented higher levels of all Protective factors and Job Satisfaction than workers in Medium and Large companies. Again, workers with higher Working seniority experimented higher levels of Risk factors a nd, regarding Protective factors, higher levels of Environmental Comfort perception Finally, workers reporting high levels of Management Efficacy and Relationship with Colleagues perception experienced significantly higher levels of Protective Factors and Job Satisfaction, and lower level of Risk Factors
  • Regarding the impact of JOB CONTENT on Organizational Health, we had found that people working in Health Care companies perceived higher levels of Stress than workers from the other two occupational sectors. No other significant effect on Risk factors was found. workers in Industry companies perceived higher levels of Environmental Comfort and Safety , than workers in Services companies, which in turn perceived higher levels than workers in Health Care companies Moreover, workers in Industry and Health Care companies perceived higher levels of Company Efficiency and Innovation Openness , and higher levels of Job Satisfaction Finally, workers with of bad Environmental conditions perception experimented significantly higher levels of Risk Factors and lower level of both Protective Factors and Job Satisfaction
  • As already said, by law - the Risk Evaluation Document on Work-related Stress must PROVIDE a series of recommendations on corrective and/or improvement actions to prevent or reduce accidents on workplaces. But information gathered by this model can provide to the top management further indications about organizational development strategies
  • Based on our experiences, here are some common pathways of organizational development to take into account: Many companies have great opportunities to increase their effectiveness and efficiency : by introducing communication flows management systems to bridge the gap between work processes and the purposes for which they were made , between "who directs" and "who is directed", and thus improve integration between different business areas , and promote higher level of job satisfaction. by defining effective human resources management system , based on actual roles and goals, in order to increase Organizational Equity and achieve higher level of organizational commitment and by developing a coherent corporate training plan , committing all training activities focused on the so-called “transversal competencies” to the common goal of promotion of safety culture and organizational citizenship
  • Regarding the advantages of this model, we point out that findings can easily be translated into specific measures to prevent and protect the whole company and homogeneous work groups from psycho-social risks, giving insights ON even wider organizational development strategies Furthermore, this method can be adapted to specific situations , yielding proposals that fit the actual conditions of each company. Nowadays, for example, many Italian companies are facing internal restructuring processes following the economic crisis, resulting in a state of a general "fibrillation" of Human Resources
  • Regarding the limitations of this model, we experienced : Many Difficulties in dealing with bureaucratic approach to safety and organizational health issues And, still, we have not been able to find effective alternatives to the in-presence questionnaire administration which can protect the participants’ privacy and ensure the effective involvement of workers and the quality of data collected
  • Thank you for your attention.

Work-related Stress assessment : an organizational approach Work-related Stress assessment : an organizational approach Presentation Transcript

  • Work-related Stress assessment: an organizational approach. G. M. Vecchio 1 , S. Fiaschi 2 , F. Pacelli 2 , E. Pacelli 3 1 Sapienza Università di Roma - Facoltà di Psicologia 2 2 Eco-Format S.r.l. - Roma 3 Eco-Consult S.r.l. - Roma
  • Questions about Work-related Stress
    • is it an organizational or individual phenomenon ?
    • should it be assessed via objective tools or using social research methodologies ?
    • workers participation : extended or limited to key roles ?
    • which professional should carry out the assessment ?
    • … what could be the benefits of assessing WrS (beside fulfilling a legal obligation) ?
    Introduction
  • European Framework Agreement on WrS
    • Assessing Work-related Stress entails investigations on :
    • organization and its processes (working time arrangements, degree of autonomy, match between skills and job requirements, workload, …)
    • work environmental conditions (exposure to abusive behaviour, noise, heat, dangerous substances, …)
    • communication flows (uncertainty about what is expected at work, employment prospects, or forthcoming change, …)
    • and subjective factors (emotional and social pressures, feeling unable to cope, perceived lack of support, …)
    Introduction
  • Organizational Context , Job Content
    • Adapted from : European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2002)
    Introduction
  • Why an organizational approach ?
    • We are dealing with a systemic phenomenon , concerning
      • «aspects about the design and management of work and its social and organizational contexts that have the potential for causing psychological or physical harms» (Leka, Griffith, & Cox, 2003)
    • WrS assessment should be focused on the relationships between individuals and their organizational contexts , in order to identify factors promoting “ Organizational Health ”
    Introduction
    • « The whole of organizational culture , processes and practices in workplaces contributing to promote, maintain and improve the quality of life and the degree of physical, psychological and social communities health » (Avallone, Paplomatas, 2005)
    • “ Healthy” organizations provide:
      • comfortable work environments
      • higher work-safety awareness
      • collaboration and efficiency
      • management of internal conflicts
      • clear goals,
      • openness to innovation
      • organizational equity
    Organizational Health Introduction
  • Guiding principles
    • Orientation to universal prevention
    • Participation of all members to the survey
    • Contextualization of research
    • Internal cut-off scores
    • Multidisciplinary approach
    Assessing WrS
  • A six-step model
    • 1) Start-up and Desk Analysis
    • sharing procedures and tools with stakeholders
    • data collection about company structure and functional processes
    • activities to inform and involve all workers
    • reconnaissance of the company departments
    • 2) Questionnaire administration
    • collective sessions
    • stringent consent procedure on privacy
    • sealed envelopes
    Assessing WrS
    • 3) Preliminary results
    • results from statistical analysis discussed in aggregated form
    • focus on critical issues and areas to be deepened with workers
    • 4) Qualitative analysis
    • Focus Group sessions with workers
    • homogeneity criteria of professional roles and representativeness of company departments
    A six-step model Assessing WrS
    • 5) Risks Evaluation Document for WrS
    • criteria and tools used
    • complete findings
    • corrective and/or improvement actions
    • dissemination strategies
    • 6) Follow-up
    • monitoring the implementation progress of the proposed actions (six months later)
    A six-step model Assessing WrS
  • Objectives The study
  • Measures
    • MOHQ - Multidimensional Organizational Health Questionnaire (Avallone, Paplomatas, 2005)
    • 109 items (4-point scale) assessing behaviour and situations perceived in work contexts, each related to a dimension of Organizational Health.
    • Risk factors
      • Perception on Interpersonal Conflicts
      • Perception of Stress
      • Perception of Psychosomatic Symptoms.
    • Protective factors
      • Work Environmental Comfort
      • Work Environmental Safety
      • Perception of Management Efficacy
      • Perception of Relationship with Colleagues
      • Perception of Company Efficiency
      • Perception of Organizational Equity
      • Perception of Innovation Openness
    • Job Satisfaction
    The study
  • the Sample The study
    • significant Gender and Age differences were found in all Organizational Health dimensions
      • women (regardless of age) and older workers (regardless of gender) experienced higher levels of all Risk factors
      • Gender and Age were included as covariates in all subsequent One-Way Univariate Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVA)
    Gender and Age differences Results
      • workers in Large companies experimented higher levels of Risk factors
      • workers in Small companies experimented higher levels of Protective factors and Job satisfaction
      • workers with higher Working seniority experimented higher levels of Risk factors , but a better Environmental conditions perception
      • workers reporting effective Management Efficacy and better Relationship with Colleagues experimented lower levels of Risk factors , higher levels of Protective factors and Job Satisfaction
    Organizational Context impact Results
      • workers in Health Care sector experimented higher levels of Stress
      • workers in Industry sector experimented better Environmental conditions (followed by Services )
      • workers in both Industry and Health Care sector experimented higher levels of Company Efficiency and Innovation Openness , and higher level of Job Satisfaction
      • workers with a perception of bad Environmental conditions experimented higher levels of Risk Factors , and lower level of Protective Factors and Job Satisfaction
    Job Content impact Results
  • Outcomes for WrS assessment
    • By law, the Risk Evaluation Document on Work-related Stress must provide a series of recommendations on corrective and/or improvement actions to prevent or reduce accidents on workplaces .
    • Information gathered by this model can provide to the top management further indications about organizational development strategies
    Conclusions
  • Paths of organizational development
      • Management of communication flows to bridge the gap between processes, "who directs“/"who is directed”, and improve integration
      • effective Human Resources Management Systems to achieve higher level of organizational equity and organizational commitment
      • coherent Corporate Training Plan , aiming all training activities to a common goal of promoting Safety culture and organizational citizenship
    Conclusions
  • Advantages
    • Findings can easily be translated into specific measures to prevent and protect the whole company and homogeneous work groups from psycho-social risks, giving insights on even wider organizational development strategies
    • This model can be adapted to specific situations , yielding proposals that fit the actual conditions of each company
    Conclusions
  • Limitations
    • Difficulties in dealing with bureaucratic approach to safety and organizational health issues
    • Still not able to find effective alternatives to the in-presence questionnaire administration which can protect the participants’ privacy and ensure the effective involvement of workers and the quality of data collected
    Conclusions
    • Corresponding author :
    • Stefano Fiaschi
    • email : [email_address]
    • web : www.eco-format.com
    Thank you
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