Managing risks

Workplace stress: how to prevent and manage the risks

Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and manage psychological risks in the workplace, just as they do physical risks.

With the ever-increasing demands of jobs and the costs associated with staff turnover and psychological injury claims, it makes good business sense to focus on workplace stress reduction.

Workplace stress and fatigue can cause absenteeism in businesses. Workplace stress statistics show one in five Australians (21%) have taken time off in the past 12 months because they felt stressed. In addition, leaders believe workplace stress leads to less productive employees. 71% of organisational leaders say businesses that value mental health are likely to be more productive than those that don’t.

How to manage workplace stress

In order to manage workplace stress, everyone in your organisation should be aware of workplace stress signs and workplace stress causes. Here are five easy steps to manage workplace stress effectively in your workplace:

1. Policy

Ensure policies and procedures support psychological health and align with the organisation’s core values.

Display senior level endorsement and communication to all staff regarding the organisation’s commitment to the psychological wellbeing of its employees.

2. Assess your psychosocial risks

Gather information regarding the key psychosocial risk factors or “stressors” for staff at your organisation by analysing the causes of any psychological claims, complaints and grievances and exit interview data. You can’t manage risks if you don’t know what they are.

Gather staff opinions about the challenges they face in their roles and in their interactions with others through pulse checks or employee engagement surveys.

3. Prevention and management initiatives 

Develop targeted interventions to address your risks, including workplace stress programs. For example, an increase in the number of psychological injury claims, which have arisen from staff being exposed to aggressive clients may prompt the following:

  • review and improve escalation procedures

  • defusion training for all staff in dealing with difficult clients

  • introduction of an employee assistance program, which includes onsite debriefing.

4. Evaluation of initiatives

Evaluate the effectiveness of your mental health initiatives.

Celebrate the successes of your initiatives and communicate these to staff to continue sending a positive message to employees regarding the importance of their psychological health and safety.

5. Persistence

Ensure any changes become part of the organisational culture and have support across all levels. They are more likely to stick if this is done.

When it comes to workplace stress, an employer’s responsibilities are to create a healthy and positive work environment. This can be done in a number of ways, such as providing dedicated workplace stress training for employees or offering workplace stress leave.

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