identifying risk factors

The Australian government’s Comcare publication 'Working well – An organisational approach to preventing psychological injury' has some useful insights into contributing factors and warning signs for workplace stress, along with information on how to manage and reduce this. According to Comcare, psychological injury is usually the result of a combination of work and other pressures.

The majority of claims relate to conditions that develop over a long period of time, rather than as the result of a traumatic event or critical incident. Work-related factors tend to be linked to either the type of work undertaken (content) or the broader working environment (context).

Work content factors include:

  • heavy workload and fast working pace – heavy workloads of prolonged duration, protracted overtime with little opportunity for recuperation, a fast working pace combined with limited opportunities to control or influence one’s own work
  • boring and repetitive work – which gives little opportunity for challenge or personal or vocational development
  • physical working environment – unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, ergonomic problems or sedentary work practices
  • shift work

Work context factors include:

  • climate and culture – lack of organisational focus on the development of leadership and people-management skills
  • management styles – lack of participation by employees in decision making, poor communication, a culture of blame when things go wrong, and lack of family-friendly policies
  • co-worker relationships – poor social environment, harassment, lack of support from colleagues and supervisors, or working alone
  • risk of violence – being subject to physical violence, threats of physical violence by co-workers, supervisors or clients
  • work roles – conflicting or uncertain work expectations, too much responsibility without adequate training or support, or too many ‘hats to wear’
  • performance management and career concerns – ineffective performance management, job insecurity, lack of opportunity for development, and disciplinary action
  • organisational change – rapid changes for which employees are unprepared either because of poor communication, leadership or inadequate training
  • poor work-life balance

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