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Presumption 2: the case for prioritization and management of psychosocial risks is not clearly defined Nov 18th, 2014
Several studies have shown the impact of psychosocial risks, work-related stress, bullying and harassment on individual health, safety and well-being, organizational performance, and societal health and prosperity. Studies document elevated odds ratios of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events amongst those reporting job strain, effort-reward imbalance or organizational injustice. Overall, risks are at least 50% higher amongst those suffering from stress at work compared in comparison to those who are not.

In addition, the majority of cardiovascular risk factors can be linked to adverse psychosocial work environments in terms of job strain and effort-reward imbalance. In particular metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, hypertension, obesity, health-adverse behaviours and markers of dysregulated autonomic nervous and endocrine system activity.

Other studies have shown the direct and indirect effect of a poor psychosocial work environment on absenteeism, productivity, job satisfaction, and intention to quit. A reduction in physical and psychological health through the experience of stress can cause suboptimal performance that may lead to accidents and to other quality problems and reduced productivity, thereby augmenting operational risks. In addition, studies have suggested that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days have some link with work-related stress.

Clearly there is a data making the ‘economic’ case for psychosocial risk management. Astonishingly, there still appears to be resistance from businesses to prioritize it. This may be partly attributable to the way psychosocial risk management is understood; that is, as an approach to alleviate negative outcomes but not necessarily one to capitalize on opportunities and resources for prevention. This perception might stem from the approach employed by some key stakeholders to take a ‘reactive’ approach to dealing with psychosocial risks rather than providing some resources to proactive preventative strategies.

Businesses deal with risk and risk management routinely. Risk management is used from the development of business strategy to the execution of daily operations. However, psychosocial risk management concerns work organization, design and management. It must be embedded in business operations and not viewed as an add-on. Such a conceptualization of psychosocial risk management would also reduce resistance and stigmatization in dealing with mental health in the workplace and promote well-being and performance.


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