Overview of work-related stress

 
Overview of work-related stress
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                                  Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

Overview of work-related stress
                                                                                                                                       01

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Stress is a term that is widely used in everyday life and most people have
some idea of its meaning. Work-related stress is recognised globally as a
major challenge to workers’ health, and the health of an organisation.

                                                                   a legal obligation to minimise their exposure to work-related
                                                                   factors that can increase the risk of work-related stress.
     Work-related stress describes the physical, mental
     and emotional reactions of workers who perceive               The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes a legal duty
                                                                   on business operators to do what is reasonably practicable to
     that their work demands exceed their abilities
                                                                   eliminate or minimise risk to worker health and safety. This
     and/or their resources (such as time, help/support)           duty extends to protecting workers from the risk of harm
     to do the work. It occurs when they perceive they             from stressors at work.
     are not coping in situations where it is important
     to them that they cope.                                       Risk factors for work-related stress
                                                                   The key to reducing the effects of work-related stress is
A worker’s response to stressors at work may be positive or        to understand what organisational, environmental and
negative for worker wellbeing, depending on a number of            individual characteristics may lead to stress in the first place.
factors. In the vast majority of instances, people adjust to
stressors and are able to continue to perform their normal         Organisational
work duties. While stress itself is not a disease, if it becomes   It is important to understand the types of organisational
excessive and long-lasting it can lead to mental and physical      stressors people can be exposed to when examining work-
ill-health.                                                        related stress. A simplified model is shown in Figure 1 (over
                                                                   page).

Your legal obligations                                             The model identifies the kinds of organisational stressors or
                                                                   risk factors that might lead to workers experiencing stress
Work-related stress leading to illness, injury and weakened        and sustaining psychological and/or physical ill-health.
organisational performance can come from many sources,             These risk factors are outlined in more detail in Tip Sheet 4.
both work and non-work.

Employers are not able to control workers’ personal lives and
the stressors they may encounter there, however they do have
Overview of work-related stress
Environmental                                                                                                             While it is important to recognise these individual differences
   Environmental stressors such as physical, chemical or                                                                     and to match jobs and tasks to individual abilities, this does
   biological agents can influence the worker’s comfort and                                                                  not reduce an employers legal duty to minimise workers’
   performance in his or her work environment, and might                                                                     exposure to risk factors for work-related stress
   contribute to a stress response. These factors can cause stress                                                           and to ensure the workplace does not exacerbate an existing
   on their own, but often act to exacerbate a person’s response                                                             illness.
   to another stressor.

   Types of environmental stressors include:                                                                                 Outcomes of exposure to work-related
   • noise                                                                                                                   stress
   • temperature and humidity
                                                                                                                             Possible health effects
   • lighting                                                                                                                Short-lived or infrequent exposure to low-level stressors are
   • vibration                                                                                                               not likely to lead to harm, in fact short-term exposure can
                                                                                                                             result in improved performance. When stressful situations
   • air quality                                                                                                             go unresolved, however, the body is kept in a constant state
   • unguarded plant and equipment.                                                                                          of stimulation, which can result in physiological and/or
                                                                                                                             psychological changes and illness. For example:
   Figure 1.
                                                                                                                             Physical:                   headaches, indigestion, tiredness, slow
                                                                                                                                                         reactions, shortness of breath
                                        Risk Factors/Stressors
                                                                                                                             Mental:                     difficulty in decision-making, forgetfulness
                                               Work demands
                                                 Low control                                                                 Emotional:                  irritability, excess worrying, feeling of
                                                                                                                                                         worthlessness, anxiety, defensiveness, anger,
                                                 Poor support
                                                                                                                                                         mood swings
                                           Lack of role clarity
                                                                                                                             Behavioural: diminished performance, withdrawal
                                 Poorly managed relationships                                                                             behaviours, impulsive behaviour, increase in
                          Low levels of recognition and reward                                                                            alcohol and nicotine consumption
                                      Poorly managed change                                                                  Common longer-term health issues linked to stress include
                                        Organisational justice                                                               cardiovascular disease (CVD), immune deficiency disorders,
                                                                                                                             gastrointestinal disorders, psychiatric/psychological illness
                                                                                                                             (PPI) and musculoskeletal disorders.

                                                                                                                             Possible effects on organisational performance
                                         Work-related Stress                                                                 Increased stress levels of workers in an organisation can lead
                                                                                                                             to diminished organisational performance as measured by the
                                                                                                                             following:

                                                                                                                             • productivity and efficiency may be reduced
                  Psychological                                              Physical Illness
                  Injury/Illness                                    (cardiovascular disease,                                 • job satisfaction, morale and cohesion may decline
           (depression, anxiety,                                   musculoskeletal disorders,                                • absenteeism and sickness absence may increase
            burnout, emotional                                        immune deficiency,
                                                                                                                             • there may be an increase in staff turnover
             distress, suicide)                                    gastrointestinal disorders)
                                                                                                                             • accidents and injuries may increase
                                                                                                                             • conflict may increase and the quality of relationships may
                                                                                                                               decline
   Individual                                                                                                                • client satisfaction may be reduced
   People respond to stressors at work in different ways. It                                                                 • there may be increased health care expenditure and
   has been suggested that this can, in part, be related to                                                                    workers’ compensation claims.
   physiological and/or personality factors (e.g. resilience).
   Worker well-being appears to benefit from a combination                                                                   The effects of work-related stress on organisational
   of challenging work, a supportive atmosphere and adequate                                                                 performance provide good reasons — above and beyond legal
   resources.                                                                                                                duties and the direct financial and human costs — as to why
                                                                                                                             employers and other duty holders should reduce workers’
                                                                                                                             exposure to workplace stressors.

   © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
   Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
   The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
   of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
   losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                            1300 369 915
Overview of work-related stress
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                                Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

A risk management approach
to work-related stress                                                                                                                       02

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Risk management is a four-step process for controlling exposure to health
and safety risks associated with hazards in the workplace.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 asserts that,                Figure 1. The four-step risk management process
to properly manage exposure to risks, a person must:
1. identify hazards
                                                                                                                CO
2. assess risks if necessary                                                           N                             NS
                                                                                T   IO                                    U
                                                                                                                              LT
3. control risks                                                            A
                                                                                                           STEP 2
                                                                      LT

                                                                                                                                   A

4. review control measures to ensure they are working                                                    Assess risks
                                                                                                                                   TI
                                                                      U
                                                                   NS

                                                                                                  Known
                                                                                                                                       ON

   as planned.                                                                  STEP 1                  ris
                                                                 CO

                                                                          Identify hazards                 ks
Many of the discussions about stress risk management
                                                                                                            an

have traditionally been focussed on individuals within an
                                                                                                              dc

organisation who are already distressed. This approach is
                                                                                                                ontr

not only costly, but it also means that the employer or
                                                                                            MANAGEMENT
                                                                                                                    ol

business operator may not be fully meeting their duty to                                    COMMITTMENT
eliminate or minimise risks to worker health and safety
from being exposed to stressors at work.
The risk of work-related stress may be present in any                           STEP 4
                                                                                                                                        CO

workplace. Employers should apply the risk management                     Review control                  STEP 3
                                                                      N

                                                                                                                                    NS

process (illustrated in Figure 1) to eliminate or minimise, as               measures                  Control risks
                                                                   IO

far as reasonably practicable, exposure to potential causes of
                                                                                                                                       U
                                                                      T

                                                                                                                                   LT
                                                                        A

work-related stress.                                                       LT                                             TI
                                                                                                                               A
                                                                                   U                             ON
                                                                                NS
                                                                                       CO

                                                                 Image based on diagram from How to Manage Work Health and
                                                                 Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011
Overview of work-related stress
Step 1: Identify the hazards                                                                                             Findings from focus groups or worker surveys would then
                                                                                                                            inform a decision about the likelihood and consequences of
   The first step in the risk management process is to identify                                                             injury or illness from exposure to work-related stress and
   workplace hazards. This means looking for those things                                                                   make it clear which risk factors are contributing to that risk.
   in the workplace that have the potential to cause harm.
   The source of work-related stress can be determined by
   evaluating: productivity levels, rates of absenteeism,
                                                                                                                            Step 3: Control risks
   separation rates/turnover, exit interviews, staff engagement/                                                            After assessing the risk and determining which factor(s) have
   morale, customer feedback, peak/seasonal demands,                                                                        the greatest contribution to that risk, the most appropriate
   analysing incident reports and data trends.                                                                              control measure(s) that are reasonably practical in the
                                                                                                                            circumstances need to be selected and implemented. When
   Step 2: Assess and prioritise the risk                                                                                   selecting a particular control, it is important to be able to
                                                                                                                            justify why it was chosen over a different measure.
   This step involves assessing the likelihood and consequences
   of injury or illness that may result from exposure to work-                                                              For work-related stress, deciding on control measures usually
   related stressors. Stressors or risk factors for work-related                                                            means altering a problem risk factor. For instance, reducing
   stress include:                                                                                                          work demands, increasing the level of control a worker has
                                                                                                                            over his or her job, and increasing the amount of peer and/or
    •    work demands (emotional, mental, physical)                                                                         supervisor support a person is receiving.
   •     low control
                                                                                                                            Examples of control measures to manage the risk of work-
   •     poor support                                                                                                       related stress include:
   •     lack of role clarity
   •     poorly managed change                                                                                              • improving supervisor/managerial skills through coaching,
                                                                                                                              mentoring and/or training
   •     poorly managed relationships
                                                                                                                            • planning workloads to meet potential demands
   •     low levels of recognition and reward
                                                                                                                            • setting clear performance goals/accountability
   •     organisational injustice.
                                                                                                                            • ensuring role clarity and reassessing job descriptions
   How to conduct a risk assessment                                                                                         • setting new or adjusting current HR procedures
   Risk factors for work-related stress can be assessed by                                                                  • providing assistance (e.g. an employee assistance
   understanding worker complaints, observing interactions                                                                    program)
   between workers, gaining feedback from workers, having                                                                   • communicating policy and availability of assistance
   one-on-one discussions with workers and through the use of                                                               • checking understanding and implementation of changes
   focus groups or a worker survey.                                                                                         • promoting effective early rehabilitation.

          Focus groups are small groups (typically 6-10 people)                                                             Step 4: Review control measures
          from across the organisation. The purpose of a focus                                                              The last step of the risk management process is to review
          group is to provide a forum for assessing the risk                                                                the effectiveness of the control measures that have been
          of exposure to work-related stressors. This is done                                                               implemented to ensure they are working as planned.
                                                                                                                            When reviewing the effectiveness of control measures, it
          by considering each of the stress risk factors listed
                                                                                                                            is important to weigh up whether the chosen controls are
          above and how they may or may not apply to their                                                                  effective or whether they need some modification.
          workplace.
                                                                                                                            Risk management for work-related stress is not a one-off
          Another effective approach to finding out about                                                                   exercise, but something that must go on continually in the
          work-related stressors is to administer a worker survey.                                                          organisation. The dynamics and complexity of organisations
          Surveys can be an important tool in soliciting which                                                              can mean that changes such as a new supervisor, new
          stressors are present in the workplace, evaluating                                                                workers or new processes or procedures can have marked,
                                                                                                                            unexpected and unplanned effects on the stress levels
          the degree to which they are affecting workers
                                                                                                                            of workers.
          and pinpointing where they are originating. When
          undertaking a worker survey, one must consider the
          size of the group to be surveyed, how participants are
          to be selected and how survey results will be fed back
          to staff. Anonymity must be guaranteed throughout
          the entire process.

  © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
  Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
  The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
  of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
  losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
Overview of work-related stress
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                            Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

Implementing a work-related
stress risk management process                                                                                                03

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

As well as an important legal duty, risk management for work-related stress
can be an organisational improvement strategy.
There have been a number of conditions found to be critical
to the success of this kind of intervention:
                                                              Participation, communication and
                                                              consultation
1. visible organisational and management commitment to
   dealing with work-related stress                           The work health and safety legislation in Queensland
2. worker participation in all activities of stress           has a strong focus on consultation in risk management,
   management, including risk assessment or diagnosis,        which means that employers are required to seek advice or
   feedback, planning and implementing control options and    information from the people involved with the risks in the
   interventions                                              workplace. When it comes to managing the risks of work-
                                                              related stress, you will be particularly dependent upon input
3. organisational communication and consultation regarding    from your workers to identify and address stressors at work
   the risk management process.                               and will see clear benefits from communicating with, and
                                                              involving them in the process.
Commitment
                                                              Consulting with workers at each stage of the risk
Senior management commitment is critical to the success of    management process will assist in achieving better health
any significant organisational initiative. Programs such as   and safety outcomes because:
risk management require resources (people, money and time),
but in the long term have been shown to make considerable     • workers are in constant close contact with the day-to-day
savings in resources. They require the willing and              elements of the workplace and the work that can increase
appropriate commitment of these resources by management         the risk of work-related stress — consulting with them will
upfront.                                                        give you access to their first-hand experience
                                                              • seeking assistance from the workers will encourage them
Gaining employee commitment through frequent and open           to accept and comply with the solutions that are to be put
communication is also a necessary part of successfully          in place
changing employee attitudes and/or behaviour.
Overview of work-related stress
• workers can experience stress if they perceive that
     they have little control over their work and their work
                                                                                                                                      The working group can:
     environment, and who do not feel supported in their
     workplace — communicating with them and seeking their                                                                            • encourage worker participation
     participation in the risk management process very directly
     addresses the risk factors of low control and poor support.                                                                      • discuss perceptions and perspectives on work
     In this way the consultation process itself becomes part of                                                                            practices
     the solution.
                                                                                                                                      • coordinate focus group discussions or the
   Ways to facilitate participation and                                                                                                     distribution of surveys

   consultation                                                                                                                       • review the results of surveys and other
                                                                                                                                            information provided to confirm or challenge the
   The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 formally provides
   for consultation through workplace health and safety                                                                                     responses
   representatives and committees, where these are required in                                                                        • analyse and prioritise areas where action is
   your workplace.
                                                                                                                                            needed
   As well as using workplace health and safety representatives
                                                                                                                                      • using a collaborative approach involving workers
   and committees, you can set up a specific communication
   and project management structure to oversee and implement                                                                                and managers, develop an action plan to address
   the risk management process. This structure might include a                                                                              the identified causes of work related stress
   senior steering committee and/or a working group.
                                                                                                                                      • report to the Senior Steering Committee.
   Senior steering committee
   A senior steering committee is a group of individuals
   drawn from those in senior management positions                                                                          Feedback of results of the risk assessment
   and strategic areas of the organisation, such as human                                                                   Providing feedback on the risk assessment to members of
   resources, workplace health and safety and organisational                                                                the organisation is crucial. This step helps ensure information
   communication, who are responsible for general operating                                                                 about risk factors is used in designing, implementing and
   policy, procedures and related matters affecting the                                                                     evaluating appropriate interventions.
   organisation as a whole. It includes a ‘project champion’,
   who heads the committee and gives the project momentum.                                                                  Feedback may focus initially on the project champion and
   The purpose of a senior steering committee is to:                                                                        steering committee or working group, with discussions on
                                                                                                                            how the results could be best positioned and presented.
   • provide overall guidance and direction for a project and                                                               However this process should not be restricted to this group
     to interface with the organisation at a senior level about                                                             alone, with the promise of wider feedback an important
     the project                                                                                                            factor in securing worker commitment to any interventions
   • provide tangible evidence of management support.                                                                       or risk reduction activities.
   Employers may want to consider establishing a steering                                                                   It is also important to seek worker input into the designing,
   committee to oversee the stress risk management process                                                                  implementing and evaluating of any control measures for
   and to ensure that the recommendations for changes are                                                                   managing risks associated with work-related stress.
   implemented strategically and earnestly.

   Working group
   The working group includes the people who more actively
   facilitate the process on the ground. Working groups are
   an effective way of carrying out a potentially large-scale
   strategic process like work-related stress risk management.
   They encourage full and active participation by the workers
   in the risk management process.

  © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
  Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
  The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
  of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
  losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
Overview of work-related stress
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                                    Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

Risk factors for work-related stress
                                                                                                                                         04

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Risk factors for work-related stress are aspects of work that are associated
with psychiatric, psychological and/or physical injury or illness.
The eight risk factors for work-related stress are interrelated so
it is best not to consider them in isolation. There is a greater
                                                                     2. Low levels of control
risk of work-related stress when a number of these stressors or      The risk factor of ‘control’ refers to how much influence a
risk factors act in combination.                                     person has in how they meet their task demands and how
                                                                     they perform their work in general (also known as autonomy).
The following eight risk factors have been identified as being       Unnecessary levels of supervision and surveillance, excessive
associated with work-related stress related ill health.              responsibility but little authority or decision making and little
                                                                     or no say in how work is done can all lead to a stress response.
1. Work demands                                                      A person’s tasks need to be meaningful, varied and allow for
Everyone has a given capacity for work and if a person’s             an appropriate degree of autonomy. It is possible for everyone
capacity is exceeded the person may experience                       in an organisation (not just those in senior positions) to feel
work-related stress.                                                 they have input into their work simply by the communication
                                                                     and consultation strategies that are utilised in the work team.
Some common work demands include:
• time pressure including inadequate time and resources to
  complete jobs satisfactorily, working too hard or too fast
                                                                     3. Poor support from supervisors and/
  and difficult targets.                                             or co-workers
• high mental task demands such as work that requires                This important risk factor covers aspects such as whether
  high-level decision making or prolonged periods of                 workers feel they are given constructive feedback, whether
  concentration.                                                     they can talk to their supervisor and peers about work
• work that is monotonous and dull or does not utilise a             problems, whether their supervisor helps fix work problems,
  worker’s range of skills or previous training.                     whether peers help out when things are tough and whether
                                                                     it is possible to talk to, and form relationships with, work
• high emotional task demands, including work that                   colleagues. The way workers are supported is key to reducing
  is emotionally disturbing or requires high emotional               or moderating work-related stress. For instance, support may
  involvement.                                                       be provided through practical assistance in performing tasks
• working long hours or overtime, working through breaks             or through the provision of information. It can also come in
  or taking work home.                                               the form of emotional support, which refers to non-tangible
                                                                     assistance such as talking over a problem with a worker,
• shift rosters that are unpredictable and/or affect amount
                                                                     providing positive feedback/encouragement or informally
  and quality of sleep, or make it difficult to balance work
                                                                     congratulating a member of a team for a job well done.
  and family life.
Overview of work-related stress
Support provided by peers and supervisors can ‘cushion’ the
   stress responses people might otherwise experience where their
                                                                                                                            7. Poorly managed change
   jobs are demanding and they feel that they are not in control.                                                           This risk factor refers to how organisational change (large or
   This gives them greater coping resources in times of high work                                                           small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
   demand.                                                                                                                  Change can be related to alterations in individual work
                                                                                                                            conditions such as a change of role or shift roster or the
                                                                                                                            introduction of new technology, or can be related to work-
   4. Lack of role clarity                                                                                                  team or organisational level changes such as mergers,
   Role confusion arises when workers do not have clarity                                                                   acquisitions, restructures or downsizing. Poor management
   regarding their work objectives and key accountabilities, their                                                          of this process can lead to workers feeling anxious and
   co-workers’ expectations of them and the overall scope and                                                               uncertain about aspects of their work or employment status.
   responsibilities of their job. A wide range of situations can                                                            Communicating what the organisation wants to achieve
   create confusion, for instance beginning a new job or starting                                                           through the change and involving and supporting workers
   in a new organisation, a transfer, a new supervisor or manager                                                           throughout the process is crucial.
   or a change in the structure of a work unit.

   Role conflict occurs when a worker is required to perform                                                                8. Organisational justice
   a role that conflicts with their values or when they are torn                                                            Organisational justice refers to perceptions of fairness about
   between incompatible job demands. The greater the role                                                                   work procedures and how they are enacted. Procedural fairness
   conflict, the higher the likelihood of a worker experiencing                                                             generally relates to how procedures are implemented within
   work-related stress.                                                                                                     the organisation. For example, procedures are regarded as fair
                                                                                                                            when they are unbiased, consistently applied, use accurate
   The risk of work-related stress can be reduced by ensuring                                                               information and are open to appeal processes.
   workers understand their role within the organisation and that
   any expectations placed on them do not conflict.                                                                         Relational fairness refers to the degree of dignity and
                                                                                                                            respect afforded to a worker during a process. It is important
                                                                                                                            for employers to promote a positive and fair working
   5. Poorly managed relationships                                                                                          environment, with the experience of injustice being potentially
   Colleagues can be important sources of support but they can                                                              harmful to both the individual and the organisation.
   also be potential sources of stress. Relationships with bosses,
   peers and subordinates can positively or negatively affect the
   way a worker feels and it is likely that wherever groups of
   people work together, some conflict will arise from time to
   time. This is normal and in some cases can provide positive
   impetus for innovation and growth. Conflict becomes a risk
   factor however, where it remains unresolved or becomes
   particularly intense. This may include prolonged friction and
   anger between colleagues, strained relationships or bullying.
   It is important that proactive steps be taken by the individuals
   and/or by management to resolve conflict early.

   6. Low levels of recognition and
   reward
   Rewarding workers’ efforts and recognising individual and
   team contributions and achievements within the organisation
   is important when trying to minimise the risk of work-related
   stress. Appraisal and recognition can be achieved through
   tangible rewards or through feedback on task performance and
   providing opportunities for the development of skills.

   Worker recognition is a communication tool that reinforces
   and rewards the actions and behaviours you most want people
   to repeat. Providing worker recognition by saying “thank you”
   encourages more of the same actions and thinking. Workers
   who feel appreciated are more positive about themselves and
   their ability to contribute.

  © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
  Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
  The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
  of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
  losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                            1300 362 128
Overview of work-related stress
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                            Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

                                                                                                                              05

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Work demands
Work demands are one of the most common sources of work-related
stress. While workers need challenging tasks to maintain their interest and
motivation, and to develop new skills, it is important that demands do not
exceed their ability to cope. Workers can usually cope with demanding work
if it is not excessive, if they are supported by supervisors and colleagues,
and if they are given the right amount of autonomy.

Possible solutions                                              Time pressure
Decisions need to be made about what practical solutions        When there is a demanding workload:
(control measures) will be used in the workplace to prevent,
eliminate or minimise the effect of work-related stressors on   •	Ensure workers have adequate time to complete their
worker health.                                                     tasks and allow them to have input when determining the
                                                                   timing and pace of their work.
                                                                •	Consult with workers when determining performance
    At the organisational level, controls target the work          targets, set targets that are realistic and achievable,
    itself and focus on job design, work environment and           and take into account existing workloads when setting
    working conditions.                                            targets. Team-based targets are an effective measure for
                                                                   improving overall performance against the organisational
    For the risk factor ‘high work demands’, organisational        goals and building effective teams.
    level solutions address time pressure, long or irregular    •	Regularly review workloads to ensure workers have
    working hours, mental demands, physical demands                sufficient resources (in terms of time, administrative
    and emotional demands.                                         support or equipment) to cope. Workloads can be
                                                                   reviewed during team meetings, through an informal
                                                                   check-in with the supervisor or by undertaking worksite
                                                                   assessments.
Overview of work-related stress
•	Monitor workloads during periods of peak demand (e.g.            communication and consultation when designing or
   Christmas, school holidays or seasonal peaks) and provide        changing rosters.
   additional support where required.                            •	Educate workers about the early warning signs of stress
•	Assist workers in the development of personal work plans         and fatigue. Encourage them to report their tiredness and
   to help them prioritise their tasks.                             take breaks when they need to.
•	Negotiate reasonable deadlines for completing tasks.          •	Ensure the roster provides for a continuous seven to eight
   During periods where deadlines are tight, inform workers         hours sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours sleep
   of the reasons behind the deadlines and why it is                for every seven days.
   important they are met.                                       •	Limit overtime and do not allow workers to regularly
•	Encourage workers to speak up at an early stage if               exceed a 12 hour shift.
   they feel their task demands are excessive and to seek        •	Minimise safety critical tasks during the early hours of
   guidance from management about priorities if there are           the morning (3 am to 5 am).
   insufficient resources to effectively complete the tasks.
                                                                 •	Have a policy on second jobs – ensure that the worker
When there are under- or over-qualified workers:                    understands the need to get sufficient sleep.
•	It is important workers are competent at their job and
   that their work is rewarding, therefore:
                                                                   Refer to the Managing Fatigue guide for practical
   -   design jobs to be within workers’ capabilities
                                                                   information about managing fatigue in the workplace.
   -	consider workers’ skills and abilities when allocating
      tasks
   -	provide training and skill development when needed.
                                                                 Mental demands
•	Develop a system to keep training records up-to-date,
   ensuring workers are competent and comfortable in             There are a number of ways to manage work that requires
   undertaking the core functions of their job.                  lengthy periods of concentration:
•	Limit giving workers tasks that under-utilise their skills.   •	Rotate tasks and schedules so that workers are not always
   They may feel frustrated and unmotivated if they are not         assigned jobs that require an extreme focus of their
   being challenged in their work.                                  attention.
•	Consult with workers about the opportunity to broaden         •	Give workers some control over the way they do their
   the scope of their job by expanding the range of job tasks       work including work pace and order of tasks (see Tip
   and responsibilities assigned to them.                           Sheet 6: Solutions – Low levels of control for more
•	Avoid repetitive and monotonous work by rotating job             information).
   tasks.                                                        •	Allow sufficient time for breaks.
When there are demanding hours of work, including                For work that requires complex and high-level decision
overtime and shiftwork:                                          making:

•	Ensure sufficient cover for workers who are on annual         •	Provide sufficient information to enable workers to
   or sick leave. If overtime is necessary, plan ahead so that      perform tasks competently, including adequate support
   workers can schedule their activities around it.                 and resources for decision-making.
•	Develop a system to notify workers of unplanned tight         •	Provide additional practical assistance when workers are
   deadlines and any exceptional need to work long hours.           doing challenging tasks.
•	Ensure adequate work breaks and, where practicable,           •	Allow workers sufficient time to perform the tasks
   allow some flexibility in the timing of breaks.                  assigned and provide suitable equipment which is
•	Strive to make working hours regular and predictable.            appropriately maintained.

•	Avoid encouraging workers to regularly work long hours,       •	Evaluate and review workers’ competency and capability
   take work home or work through breaks.                           and provide additional training where needed.

•	Ensure workers have adequate time management skills           •	Have systems in place to support workers when they are
   and provide training where needed.                               required to make difficult decisions or when there are
                                                                    negative consequences to decisions they have made (e.g.
•	Promote a work-life balance and encourage workers to             child safety workers).
   take annual leave or holidays when they are due.
•	Ensure shift rosters are agreed to by workers and provide
Physical demands                                                                                                         •	Where emotional demands are an unavoidable part of
                                                                                                                               a workers’ role, ensure these are captured in a position
   •	Manage environmental hazards such as noise, vibration,                                                                   description and that applicants are informed at the pre-
      poor lighting or poorly designed equipment.                                                                              selection stage (e.g. at interview) of the demanding nature
                                                                                                                               of the role.
   •	Make the physical environment as comfortable as
      possible and designed specifically for the tasks being
      undertaken (e.g. make changes to the work station, tools
                                                                                                                                   At the individual level, solutions are aimed at
      or equipment, or the way a job is done where needed).
                                                                                                                                   assisting individuals to cope or build resilience.
   •	Allow workers to take regular breaks away from
      physically demanding work and where practicable, rotate                                                                      Appropriate activities to be considered at this level of
      repetitive tasks between workers.                                                                                            intervention include:
   •	Ensure workers are well trained and capable of                                                                               •	corporate induction programs
      undertaking the required tasks.
                                                                                                                                   •	access to employee assistance programs
   Emotional demands                                                                                                               •	training about resilience
                                                                                                                                   •	health and wellbeing programs
   Some forms of work are inherently high in emotional
   demands, including work that is emotionally disturbing,                                                                         •	counselling/therapy for people experiencing
   requires high emotional involvement or requires workers to                                                                         distress from sources both in and outside of the
   regularly hide their emotions (e.g. customer service work).                                                                        workplace.

   For work that is emotionally demanding:

   •	Where possible, allow workers greater control over their
      jobs (e.g. empowering workers to make decisions that will
      reduce emotional demands such as giving a refund for a
      product).
   •	Give workers the opportunity to get some distance from
      work that is emotionally demanding and encourage
      regular breaks or ‘time out’.
   •	Provide training to workers on how to diffuse difficult or
      confronting situations (e.g. conflict management skills)
      and ensure they have available support from supervisors.
   •	Provide additional training and support to workers
      who are required to interact with clients (e.g. patients,
      customers, children, passengers or guests) and who may
      have to spend more time regulating their own emotions
      or display a higher variety of emotions at odds with their
      true feelings.
   •	Assess the risk of client-initiated violence and aggression
      and develop and implement systems to manage this risk
      where workers are exposed.
   •	Make psychological/medical support available to workers
      who are directly and indirectly involved in a traumatic
      event or in other emotionally demanding work.

  © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
  Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
  The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
  of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
  losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                             Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

                                                                                                                              06

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Levels of control
This risk factor addresses the level of influence workers have on how they meet
their task demands and the way they perform their work in general. Low levels
of job control, where there is high work demand and low support from
co-workers or supervisors, can increase the likelihood of worker strain occurring.

Some jobs are inherently low in control–for example call        Choice/self direction
centres–but it is possible for all organisations to enhance     •	A worker’s tasks need to be meaningful, varied and allow
workers’ control over their work in a number of ways.              for an appropriate degree of self direction.
                                                                •	Let workers have a say in how their own work is
Possible solutions                                                 organised rather than imposing direction. Allow them to
                                                                   have input on:
Decisions need to be made about what practical solutions
(control measures) will be used in the workplace to prevent,       —	how job tasks should be completed (where the order
eliminate or minimise the effect of work-related stressors on         and timing of tasks are not critical to the outcome)
worker health.                                                     —	how problems should be tackled
                                                                   —	the pace of their work.
                                                                •	Ensure workers have the skills required to achieve
  At the organisational level, controls target the work            most of their goals. Where skills are lacking, discuss
  itself and focus on job design, the work environment,            opportunities for development.
  and on working conditions.
                                                                •	Use performance reviews as a positive opportunity for
  For the risk factor ‘low levels of control’, organisational      workers to have input into the way they do their work,
  level solutions address levels of self direction, allowing       rather than focusing only on inadequate performance.
  input into decision making, fostering consultation and        •	Provide opportunities for job rotation to enable skill
  communication and supervising workers appropriately.             development and job variation.
Input into decision-making                                                                                                •	Avoid asking workers to regularly stay after hours
   Everyone in an organisation should feel they have input                                                                      without prior consultation.
   into their work — not just those in senior positions. There                                                               •	In participation with workers, develop clear policies
   are a number of ways an organisation can ensure everyone                                                                     on the development, implementation and purpose of
   contributes to decision-making:                                                                                              electronic performance monitoring (EPM). EPM is a
                                                                                                                                system to measure outputs at either an individual or
   •	Hold regular team meetings during which workers can                                                                       group level (e.g. calls per hour). Ensure all workers are
      have input into decisions that concern their work.                                                                        aware of these policies.
   •	Involve workers in the allocation of responsibility for                                                                •	Avoid unnecessary monitoring of workers and/or
      tasks within teams and in determining work objectives                                                                     excessive or punitive use of EPM data in performance
      and anticipated outputs, roles, timeframes and resourcing.                                                                review processes.
   •	Provide training to develop supportive leaders who                                                                     •	Train supervisory workers in the objective, appropriate
      delegate and encourage participation and welcome new                                                                      and ethical use of EPM.
      ideas.
   •	Encourage a participative approach to management
      through all of the above.                                                                                                    At the individual level, solutions are aimed at assisting
                                                                                                                                   individuals to cope or build resilience.
   Consultation and communication
   •	Communicate with workers about how and why decisions                                                                         Appropriate activities to be considered at this level of
      are made. Whenever possible, seek team involvement                                                                           intervention include:
      with making these decisions.
                                                                                                                                   •	corporate induction programs
   •	Develop and maintain a working environment in which
                                                                                                                                   •	access to employee assistance programs
      workers are consulted and can provide feedback on
      changes impacting on their tasks.                                                                                            •	training about resilience
   •	Develop a system that enables workers to have input into                                                                     •	health and wellbeing programs
      broader organisational issues (for example a suggestion                                                                      •	counselling/therapy for people experiencing
      scheme/box).                                                                                                                    distress from sources both in and outside of the
   •	Know when it is appropriate to consult with workers and                                                                         workplace.
      ensure the outcomes of a consultation process are fed
      back to them.

   Appropriate supervision
   •	Ensure that managers are competent supervisors without
      micro-managing.
   •	Consult with workers when developing performance
      monitoring systems.
   •	Provide a method through which workers can review and
      contribute to the output of monitoring systems.
   •	Develop team-based targets which assist in building
      effective teams and by measuring team performance
      against the organisational goals.
   •	When assigning work, negotiate objective and reasonable
      standards to increase workers’ perceptions of ownership
      and fairness.

   © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
   Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
   The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
   of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
   losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                              Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

                                                                                                                                 07

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Support from supervisors
and/or co-workers
The way workers are supported is key to reducing or moderating work-
related stress. Support provided by supervisors and peers can cushion the
stress responses people might otherwise experience when their jobs are
demanding and they feel they do not have control over those demands.

Possible solutions                                                 are clear. This will help workers know who they are
                                                                   accountable to (either overall or for particular tasks) and
Decisions need to be made about what practical solutions           where they can go for help with work problems.
(control measures) will be used in the workplace to prevent,    •	Provide new workers a proper induction to the
eliminate or minimise the effect of work-related stressors on      organisation and work unit.
worker health.                                                  •	Provide and promote an employee assistance service that
                                                                   responds to individual issues or concerns, both work and
   At the organisational level, controls target the work           non-work related.
   itself and focus on job design, work environment and         •	Promote a culture that values diversity in the workplace.
   working conditions.
                                                                •	Provide and promote flexible work practices that best suit
   For the risk factor ‘poor support’, organisational level        individual and business needs. This may include working
   solutions address practical assistance, the provision of        from home or flexible working hours.
   information, emotional support and positive feedback.
                                                                Practical support
                                                                There are various types of assistance that a supervisor/
Organisational structures                                       manager or colleague can provide:
There are many approaches a workplace can take to ensure        •	Assist with work demands, including clear work goals.
its workers feel supported:                                     •	Provide all workers with adequate information.
•	Ensure that management structures across the                 •	Provide workers with training and development
   organisation and reporting lines within work teams              opportunities.
•	Conduct performance reviews and include constructive                                                                   •	Give workers practical advice and guidance on areas that
     feedback.                                                                                                                 need improving.
  •	Provide additional assistance when workers are                                                                         •	Use annual performance reviews to provide constructive
     undertaking challenging tasks, such as new duties or roles.                                                               advice for future performance, and include opportunities
  •	Ensure adequate backfilling of roles or redistribution of                                                                 for skill development. It is important that annual
     work when workers are out of the office or away on leave.                                                                 performance tools are not seen as a disciplinary measure.

  Information provision                                                                                                     Emotional support
  •	Hold regular team meetings to discuss pressures and
     challenges within the work unit. Assist workers to come                                                                Emotional support from co-workers or supervisors can have
     up with practical solutions for any task-related issues                                                                a protective effect and may reduce worker strain, particularly
     that arise.                                                                                                            in situations of high demand and low control.
  •	Provide sufficient information to enable workers to                                                                    Ways to do this are:
     perform tasks competently, particularly when workers are
     taking on new work.                                                                                                    •	Support open communication and encourage workers to
                                                                                                                               share their concerns about work-related stressors at an
  Training and development                                                                                                     early stage. They should feel comfortable with discussing
  •	It is important workers feel confident and capable of                                                                     any issues that may arise.
     undertaking assigned tasks. Make sure they receive                                                                     •	Be aware of non work-related stressors that might
     enough training for them to be competent in their roles.                                                                  be present in workers’ lives and allow flexible work
  •	Training can be both task-specific and more general                                                                       arrangements where practicable.
     including, for example, training in ethics and behavioural                                                             •	Promote a team culture in which workers assist each
     expectations (code of conduct), mental health and                                                                         other and provide support when required.
     cultural awareness.
                                                                                                                            •	Provide the time to talk through problems with workers
  •	Develop training refresher sessions to ensure                                                                             and try to promote an ‘open door’ policy.
     competencies are up to date.
                                                                                                                            •	Deal sensitively with workers who are experiencing
  •	Make training available to part-time, casual and shift                                                                    problems.
     workers and those in remote locations.
                                                                                                                            •	Pay attention to a team member who is behaving out of
  •	All workers, contractors and labour hire workers should                                                                   character.
     be made aware of the policies concerning acceptable
                                                                                                                            •	Hold formal and informal team-building activities to
     behaviour in the workplace.
                                                                                                                               improve team cohesion.
  •	When appropriate, give workers managerial
                                                                                                                            •	Establish a peer support system and a mentoring/buddy
     responsibilities to encourage a wider understanding of
                                                                                                                               program for new starters.
     their tasks. This could include:
                                                                                                                            •	Take an interest in workers’ lives beyond the workplace
        -      managing workload and resources
                                                                                                                               whilst being respectful of personal and professional
        -      health and safety                                                                                               boundaries.
        -      performance management
        -      managing conflict
        -      interpersonal skills                                                                                               At the individual level, solutions are aimed at assisting
                                                                                                                                  individuals to cope or build resilience.
        -	emotional intelligence, including empathy and
           expressing and managing own emotions                                                                                   Appropriate activities to be considered at this level of
        -      effective communication.                                                                                           intervention include:

  Constructive feedback                                                                                                           •	corporate induction programs
  •	Provide regular feedback on task performance.                                                                                •	access to employee assistance programs
  •	Formally or informally congratulate workers/team                                                                             •	training about resilience
     members when tasks have been done well and be specific                                                                       •	health and wellbeing programs
     about what was done well.
                                                                                                                                  •	counselling/therapy for people experiencing distress
                                                                                                                                     from sources both in and outside of the workplace.

  © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
  Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
  The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
  of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
  losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
                                                                                              Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

                                                                                                                                  08

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Role clarity and role conflict
Poorly defined or conflicted roles in organisations can be a stressor for
workers. Poor role definition arises from a lack of clarity in workers’
objectives, key accountabilities, their co-workers’ expectations of them and
the overall scope or responsibilities of their job. Role conflict occurs when
a worker is required to perform a role that goes against their personal
values or when their job demands are incompatible.

Possible solutions                                              Role clarity
                                                                A wide range of work situations can create role confusion,
Decisions need to be made about what practical solutions        such as beginning a new job, starting in a new organisation,
(control measures) will be used in the workplace to prevent,    a transfer, a new supervisor or manager or following a
eliminate or minimise the effect of work-related stressors on   change in the structure of a work unit. Lack of role clarity
worker health.                                                  can lead to tension and conflict between workers.

   At the organisational level, controls target the work          Refer to Tip Sheet 9: Solutions - Poorly managed
   itself and focus on job design, work environment and           relationships for information on how to manage task
   working conditions.                                            and/or relationship conflict.
   For the risk factor ‘poor role clarity and role conflict’,
   organisational level solutions should address workers’       The following can help to manage this stressor:
   understanding of their role within the workgroup and
                                                                •	Provide all workers with a corporate induction and ensure
   the organisation, and the potential for expectations
                                                                   they are aware of their role within their immediate work
   placed on them to conflict.
                                                                   team or unit, program area and the broader organisation.
                                                                •	Ensure all workers receive suitable training for their jobs.
                                                                •	Assist workers to develop personal work plans that
                                                                   clearly define task objectives and expected outputs.
•	Develop and maintain a working environment where                                                                       •	Ensure systems are in place to enable workers to raise
      workers are consulted and can provide feedback on                                                                         concerns about any conflicts they have in their role and
      changes impacting on their job tasks.                                                                                     responsibilities. For example, hold regular team meetings
   •	Implement a performance feedback system, where                                                                            to enable workers to discuss any potential role conflict.
      workers receive regular feedback on jobs well done and                                                                 •	Avoid assigning roles to workers that conflict with their
      any areas for improvement.                                                                                                personal needs and values.
   •	Encourage workers to talk to their supervisor or
      manager early if they are unclear about the scope and/or
      responsibilities of their role.                                                                                               At the individual level, solutions are aimed at
                                                                                                                                    assisting individuals to cope or build resilience.
   •	Ensure workers have an up to date role or position
      description, which includes the role purpose, reporting                                                                       Appropriate activities and assistance to be considered
      relationships and the key duties expected of them.                                                                            at this level of intervention include:
   •	Ensure that management structures across the
      organisation and reporting lines within work teams                                                                            •	corporate induction programs
      are clear. This will help workers know who they are                                                                           •	access to employee assistance programs
      accountable to and where they can go for help with work
                                                                                                                                    •	training about resilience
      problems.
                                                                                                                                    •	health and wellbeing programs
   •	Provide an organisational chart that gives a clear view
      of the organisational structure and communication                                                                             •	counselling/therapy for people experiencing
      channels.                                                                                                                        distress from sources both in and outside of the
                                                                                                                                       workplace.
   •	Following an organisational change or restructure, check
      with workers to ensure they understand any additional
      responsibilities or duties that are required of them. Make
      sure they are comfortable with new functions and revise
      position descriptions to reflect new accountabilities.
   •	It is important workers feel confident and capable of
      undertaking new or revised tasks. Make sure they receive
      enough training for them to be competent in their roles.
   •	Where a change in structure or roles occurs, or re-
      training is required, use the performance review process
      as a positive opportunity for workers to have renewed
      input to the way they complete their work.

   Role conflict
   Role conflict occurs when workers are given two different
   and incompatible roles at the same time, or their role
   overlaps with another worker or work group. The greater
   the role conflict, the higher the likelihood of a worker
   experiencing occupational stress.

   Ways to manage role conflict:

   •	Avoid placing inconsistent demands on workers and
      ensure that as far as possible the different requirements
      are compatible.
   •	Have clear reporting relationships so that workers know
      who they are directly accountable to. Avoid making
      workers accountable to more than one immediate
      supervisor to reduce potential conflict in work demands.

   © The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) 2014.
   Copyright protects this document. The State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced, but asserts its right to be recognised as author of the original material and the right to have the material unaltered.
   The material presented in this publication is distributed by the Queensland Government as an information source only. The State of Queensland makes no statements, representations, or warranties about the accuracy or completeness
   of the information contained in this publication, and the reader should not rely on it. The Queensland Government disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including, without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses,
   losses, damages and costs you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way, and for any reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          AEU 14/5347

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland                                                                                                www.worksafe.qld.gov.au                                                           1300 362 128
You can also read
NEXT SLIDES ... Cancel