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Workplace Stress Risk Management


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Workplace stress can be identified and addressed through a Stress Risk Management Audit, sometimes referred to as a Stress Risk Management Assessment. In a number of Australian States, and in the UK through the Safety Executive (UK), workplace stress risk factors have been identified and considered in a risk assessment process. This powerpoint is intended to fit into recommended practices rather be considered as an alternative. It also aligns with other Organisational Health methodologies, such as the Organisational Health Audit and Complaints Management, by using an underlying Human Activity System model. This allows for the identification stress risk factors to be identified when addressing other workplace issues.

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Workplace Stress Risk Management

  1. 1. Workplace Stress Risk Management Audit Version 5 August 2011
  2. 2. Copyright David Alman 2011 What is Stress? Workplace stress is a response by an employee when presented with work situations which challenge their ability to cope. One way of looking at stress is to view it as a response to an intrapersonal conflict (a conflict within oneself), felt both psychologically and emotionally, and is brought about by work related factors. Note: In psychological terms Stress is described not in intrapersonal conflict terms but as an “imbalance” between work demands and the capability and/or resources to meet these demands. Workplace Stress
  3. 3. Stress Symptoms can be picked up through behaviours- examples Competing: Coercive, bullying, blaming, criticising Controlling: Insisting on own quick fixes; refusing to listen Withdrawal: Arriving late; leaving early Preesenteeism: Indecisive; uncharacteristic errors; frequent time off Defensive: Loss of temper; loss of sense of humour; crying Copyright David Alman 2011 Workplace Stress
  4. 4. Copyright David Alman 2011 Intrapersonal conflict can cause either healthy or unhealthy stress responses though the term “stress” is usually equated not to healthy stress (eustress) but to unhealthy stress (distress or hypo or hyper stress): Eustress is where intrapersonal conflict provides a healthy response e.g. growth & development. Distress where intrapersonal conflict provides an unhealthy response e.g. anxiety & depression. Hypostress & Hyperstress are unhealthy response extremes (too much or too little intrapersonal conflict). Workplace Stress
  5. 5. Stress Response to Conflict Model Copyright David Alman 2011 Eustress Distress Healthy Stress Response Unhealthy Intrapersonal Conflict intensityToo little e.g. Boredom Too much e.g. Work Over load Hypostress Hyperstress Workplace Stress Stress responses can be healthy or unhealthy. In the diagram below it is related to intrapersonal conflict intensity.
  6. 6. Copyright David Alman 2011 There are different psychologically based “models” developed to explain how work situations cause unhealthy stress responses. The most common is the “Job Stress” model where stress results from high job demands and low control. Another is the “Effort – Reward” model where the effort of job demands and control are linked to the rewards in terms of money, esteem, and occupational status control. In psychological terms these models reflect stress resulting from an “imbalance” between demands and coping, or between gains and costs, respectively. In conflict terms, they reflect intrapersonal “cognitive” (perceived) conflicts. Workplace Stress
  7. 7. Copyright David Alman 2011 Stress Risk Factors “Stressors” identified by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Workplace Stress Stress Risk Factor Examples 1. Work Demands • Time pressures • High mental task demand • Monotonous & dull • Long hours • Unpredictable shift rosters 2. Low Levels of Control • Low autonomy • Excessive responsibility, low authority 3. Poor support from supervisors and/or co-workers • Lack of constructive feedback • Ability to talk about problems • Lack of support 4. Lack of clarity • Role confusion about objectives • Role confusion over accountability • Co-worker expectations 5. Poorly managed relationships • Unresolved conflicts • Intensive conflicts, including strained relationships; harassment; and bullying 6. Low levels of recognition and reward • Reward for effort 7. Poorly managed change • Levels of anxiety and uncertainty 8. Organisational justice • Perceived procedural unfairness • Perceived relational unfairness e.g. Dignity & respect during a process
  8. 8. Copyright David Alman 2011 Unhealthy work environments cause poor performance, disengagement, and stress in employees. A Stress Risk Management Audit based on, for example, Health & Safety Queensland’s 8 Stress Risk Factors can be used. These 8 Stress Risk Factors are interrelated which is why a Human Activity System (HAS) Model can assist in emphasising the need to search for causal relationships. Purpose 4. Confusion e.g. over the purpose, objectives, scope, responsibilities Practices 1. Workload e.g. from time pressures & from types of works 2. Level of control e.g. Unnecessary supervision, too little authority, too little say in the way work is done Relationships 3. Support from others e.g., lack of support or encouragement. 5. Relationships e.g., ongoing strained relationships, conflicts, harassment, bullying Values & beliefs 4. Conflicts e.g. Incompatible job demands with personal values. 7. Change Management e.g. anxiety, uncertainty with work or employment status. 8. Procedural fairness e.g. Perceived unfair treatment due to work procedures used & Relational Fairness e.g. Perceived unfair treatment due to disrespect in handling concerns. Workplace Stress
  9. 9. Frequency Severity Impact Permanent personal injury e.g. trauma High levels of absenteeism Disruption to individual concentration and quality of work Very likely – could happen occasionally 1 2 3 Likely – could happen occasionally 2 3 4 Unlikely – only rarely 3 4 5 Very unlikely to occur 4 5 6 Copyright David Alman 2011 1 = Top priority – do something immediately 6 = Low priority – do something where possible Prioritising hazards using a Stress Risk Rating Matrix. Different stress risk matrices are available. The example below is from the Premier’s Department New South Wales “Occupational Stress. Hazard identification and risk management strategy.” Workplace Stress
  10. 10. Stress Risk Assessment- example. Normally the HAS aspects are not shown Hazard Description Lack of support for new employees. High turnover & error rates (HAS work Practices & management Beliefs). Lack of consultation and communication. Employees feel ignored (HAS work Practices & management beliefs). Workloads too great. Unmet targets & high error rates (HAS work Practices & management beliefs) Poor working relationships commonplace. Complaints and absence rates high (HAS Relations & management Beliefs) Stress Risk Factor 3 6 1 5 Risk Rating Stress Risk Management Hazard Controls (Preventive Measures) Introduce local – job specific- induction. Key Result Areas & Standards set up for jobs. Set up team meetings. Introduce a performance feedback system Collaborative review of roles and processes. Conflict resolution: Use of collaborative problem solving, mediation, or coaching options. Supervisors trained in conflict management. Develop value based performance Management System Note: Individual cases of reported high stress are covered separately Copyright David Alman 2011 2 3 3 2 Workplace Stress
  11. 11. For further advice please contact David Alman Contact details can be found on Copyright David Alman 2011