The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched a two-year campaign called “Healthy Workers Manage Stress” to address workplace stress, which is often overlooked by companies but has been the subject of recent awareness-raising efforts. According to EU-OSHA’s opinion poll 66% workers confirm that excessive workload stresses them out. Moreover 50% respondents believe their employers do not handle stress well. And less than 30% of companies have any processes in place for managing workplace stress.
Impact of work related stress
EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor says, “Workplaces cannot afford to ignore work-related stress, which increases absenteeism and lowers productivity.” It’s estimated that 50-60% of lost workdays in Europe can be attributed to workplace stress.
Andor also says that “a positive working environment is not only important for enabling employees to work longer, it is also important to ensure that when workers do retire, they are still in good health.”
The campaign will be coordinated by local EU-OSHA points in over 30 European countries. It will also have broad based support from corporates in the region and media partners. Activities over two years will include training sessions, workshops and conferences, quizzes, poster, photo and film contests plus advertising campaigns. Companies that demonstrate strong commitment and participation in assessing and eliminating psychological risks and stress in the workplace will be recognized at the 12th Good Practice Awards in April next year.
Also on the agenda are European Weeks for Safety and Health at Work in October for the next two years. Finally, there will be a Healthy Workplaces Summit in November 2015.
How can EU-OSHA help organizations?
There are many tools on the EU-OSHA Healthy Workplaces website to help organizations combat work-related stress. These include information on bullying and violence at work, as 59% of workers in the EU-OSHA survey identify bullying as a source of stress at work.
The management standards for work related stress indicator tool will help identify potential hotspots before they become stressors.
Restructuring is often a major stressor for employees, say 62% of workers in the survey. EU-OSHA’s resource also addresses this problem.
The size of the organization can also impact the stress level of employees. Their research shows that 40-50% of large organizations have processes in place to tackle stress, while only 20-30% of smaller organizations have similar processes. There is a particular tool addressing the needs of small companies in this respect. Another tool, which has 50 checkpoints, is a comprehensive solution to tackling work related stress before it spirals out of control.
Psychosocial hazards are definitely a growing concern in the workplace, and our own Health and Safety Industry Survey this year also noted stress as a hazard to workers. In our survey, 24% of respondents revealed that stress was often overlooked by companies. The EU-OSHA initiative should go a long way in having a permanent impact on organizational and employee behavior.