An Emerging and Growing Workplace Issue: Psychosocial Risks

Aug 19, 2021 11:15 AM ET

People are the heart of any organization, and ensuring their psychological well-being is a critical part of managing the overall occupational health of the organization’s human capital. Psychosocial workplace issues, broadly referred to as “stress” have been present in the workplace for as long as there have been workers. However, the past 18 months and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated some of the usual issues. Increased stress related to being disconnected from colleagues, problems dealing with remote working, added stress at home with families, and fear of contracting the virus has created a new level of strain on workers.

The new ISO 45003 standard is intended to dovetail into an organization’s existing EHS management system, and more specifically the ISO 45001 management system structure. ISO 45003 provides details on how psychosocial risks develop, the associated symptoms, the effect on the worker and organization, and suggestions on how to manage these risks.

What are psychosocial risks?

Psychosocial risks are issues that may impact workers’ psychological response to their work and workplace conditions, including working relationships with supervisors and co-workers. Psychosocial risks can be created by a variety of factors, including work design and organization, social factors, or the work environment and work tasks themselves. See Table 1 below: (Summarized Extract from ISO 45003:2021) Some or all of the risks can be present, and a combination of one or more of these areas of potential hazards could compound the levels of psychosocial stress and risk.

Hazard Factors

Areas of Potential Concern

Work Design and Organization

  • Lack of clarity of roles and expectations; frequent organizational change
  • Job control or work autonomy
  • Management of job demands, remote and isolated work
  • Workload and work pace match
  • Working hours and work schedule
  • Job security

Social Factors

  • Lack of clear leadership
  • Lack of effective supervision
  • Interpersonal relationships at work
  • Organizational culture
  • Civility, harassment, workplace violence
  • Recognition and reward, and career development paths
  • Support (internal and external), and training
  • Work/life balance

Work Environment and Work Tasks

  • Poor workplace conditions (lighting, space, noise, ventilation)
  • Inadequate or lack of necessary equipment, equipment reliability and maintenance
  • Working in extreme or hazardous conditions

How do you know if your workers are being affected by one or more of these psychosocial issues?

There are several indicators, both behavioral and organizational that may indicate there is an issue with an individual or group of workers. These can include:

  • A reduction in the quality of work being performed
  • Increased frequency of incidents or errors
  • Changes in worker behavior, including lack of engagement at work, avoiding working with others on a team, and frequent conflicts with others
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Social isolation, neglecting personal well-being
  • A general increase in staff turnover

What are some of the potential negative effects of psychosocial risks?

Read the full blog here to learn more about potential negative effects and how to mitigate or prevent psychosocial risks at your organization.

About Antea Group:
Antea Group is an international engineering and environmental consulting firm specializing in full-service solutions in the fields of environment, infrastructure, urban planning, and water. By combining strategic thinking and multidisciplinary perspectives with technical expertise and pragmatic action, we do more than effectively solve client challenges; we deliver sustainable results for a better future. We serve clients ranging from global energy companies and manufacturers to national governments and local municipalities. Learn more at