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Workplace Stress: What It Is and How To Assess The Risk

Work-related stress is the imbalance perception that an employee feels when his skills are not commensurate with the demands of the work environment. This is a problem on the rise among workers, and companies cannot certainly underestimate it. That is why it is necessary to speak of “risk assessment” as an essential element to preserve worker health […]

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what is workplace stress

Work-related stress is the imbalance perception that an employee feels when his skills are not commensurate with the demands of the work environment.

This is a problem on the rise among workers, and companies cannot certainly underestimate it. That is why it is necessary to speak of “risk assessment” as an essential element to preserve worker health and company productivity.

We see, in this article, what is related work stress and what does the regulation provide.

Work-Related Stress: What Is It?

The presence of stressful situations, intended as a generic reaction of the organism with respect to the requests to which it is subjected, is normal both in work and in private life. 

However, when it becomes excessive and continuous, it can result in the manifestation of physical and emotional symptoms that affect the quality of life and work performance.

Stress is not in itself a disease, but a condition caused by external factors that impact on the worker’s skills. Therefore, we are talking about work-related stress when it is caused by the continuation of factors specific to the context and the work content: too intense and disproportionate to the skills of the worker.

The evolution of work-related stress symptoms can lead to pathology and have negative effects on both the person and the company:

  • Decline in worker performance;
  • Increase in accidents caused by human error;
  • Absenteeism;
  • Negative attitudes.

These are some of the factors that represent an increase in costs for the company and the progressive degradation of the working environment, a situation that can be prevented and reduced if the appropriate guidelines for the assessment and management of the risk from work-related stress are applied.

Work-Related Stress: Legislation

The regulatory framework for protection of health and safety at work is represented by Legislative Decree 81/2008 , which classifies work-related stress ( SLC ) as one of the risks subject to assessment and management, in compliance with the contents set out in the agreement. European 8 October 2004 .

Subsequently, the Permanent Consultative Commission on Health and Safety at Work developed the indications necessary for the assessment of work-related stress risk. 

With the circular of 18 November 2010, it identified a methodological path that also foresees the timing to be respected, for effective monitoring (for example, the obligation to evaluate every 2/3 years, unless there are previous situations that require the adoption of more restrictive measures).

Among the best practices that can be introduced in the company, thanks to figures operating for the purpose of prevention, Inail has also developed a methodological proposal for the management and assessment of the risk of work-related stress .

Inail work-related stress risk assessment

Inail developed a new proposal in October 2017 that is easy to implement for companies, based on approaches and procedures that are the result of scientific research.

The goal is to support the employer, providing him with all the tools and knowledge necessary to prevent and manage work-related stress risk : a method that readjusts and integrates the standard Management model prepared by the Health and safety executive (HSE) and contextualized in Legislative Decree 81/08.

The methodological path envisages the active involvement of workers and prevention figures, and is divided into 4 main phases –

1. Preparatory phase – Consists of the organizational preparation of the assessment and risk activities.

2. Preliminary evaluation phase – In this phase, the objective is to evaluate some objective organizational indicators. The sentinel events are analyzed and the indicators of the content and context of the work are surveyed through a special checklist.

3. The phase of the in-depth assessment – Aimed at detecting workers’ perceptions regarding the aspects of Content and Context of the work, connected with SLC risk; it must be undertaken if the outcome of the preliminary assessment has revealed the presence, in one or more homogeneous groups, of an SLC risk condition, and the corrective actions implemented have not obtained the risk reduction effect.

4. Intervention planning phase – the objective of this phase is to develop and plan an intervention strategy, to avoid that any risk situation creates damage to workers and the company.

In confirmation of the commitment to prevention, INAIL has made available an online platform for risk assessment tools.

Risk Assessment: What To Do?

How to reduce workplace stress? Legislative Decree 81/08 imposes obligations on the employer: art. 28 of the decree, in fact, specifies that the assessment of the risks to the health and safety of workers must cover all risks to the health and safety of workers, including those concerning groups of workers exposed to particular risks, including those related to work-related stress, according to the contents of the European Agreement of 08/10/2004 .

Having learned the impact it can have on the life of the worker and on the costs for the company, the implementation of the system recommended by Inail is essential.

 However, identifying the risks and managing a careful and specific path in assessing the possible causes of stress may not be easy for the employer.

Companies should take necessary steps-

  • Draw the necessary guidelines;
  • Protect safety and health in the workplace;
  • Cut costs and optimize work resources.

We should take the workplace stress seriously. As it is related to a employee’s mental health and as well as physical health.

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