Lesson 7 Psychosocial factors

  • Psychosocial hazards have been recognized and acknowledged in recent years among important risks in occupational environment. They affect psychological and physical well-being of workers. Psychosocial risk factors are related with a manner the work has been designed, is being managed and/or organized, and also with social aspects of work. They include vast variety of hazards.
  • This is a good place to explain you a term “stress”. Stress is a reaction of your body to pressure, which can be mental, emotional, or physical. It can be described as unspecific reaction to demands set by environment. Stress can be encountered in different condition, both in your private life and working life.
  • Psychological: you may feel anxiety, exhaustion, be depressed, dissatisfied with work or experience lack of satisfaction with life, decreases self-esteem.
  • Physiological: at this level your body may react with increased blood pressure, heart rate variations, hormonal changes, changes in blood sugar levels, digestive problems (like indigestion, diarrhoea, or constipation), sweating, hyperventilation or shallow breathing.
  • Behavioural: these effects may include increase in alcohol and drug intake, smoking cigarettes, experience sexual problems, problems with human relations, issues with sleeping, being tearful or have problems with decision-making, being more prone to causing accidents at work and absenteeism.
  • Physical, chemical and biological factors present in working environment
    These factors not only pose a certain level of direct health threat, but they may also have an impact on your mental perception of threat, contributing to generation of stress among workers. That impact may result in anxiety about losing health or even life. The most recent example of such situation may be fear of getting COVID-19, particularly among those workers who may be exposed to infected people or contaminated materials.
  • Quantitative and qualitative work overload (too much work or too difficult work)
    There is research evidence showing that there are negative effects of performing work that is perceived by worker as too difficult (which may lead to e.g. decreased self-esteem) or there is too much work to be done, beyond capacities of worker.
  • Low job demands (work below skills and qualification of worker, too little diverse work)
    Having too easy or/and not demanding job is also not beneficial for one’s health and is regarded as one of stressors. This happens when you have too little to do, or when you do highly repetitive and monotonous tasks.
  • Limited control levels (no control over work processes and working conditions)
    This means the extent to which you may decide about organization of work or conditions of work. Is it important to have some level of decisiveness in selection of tasks and way they may be executed, including time of work and rest periods. Limitations in control levels may result from technological or organizational reasons. For example, technology-related limitation may appear when workers must adjust their work speed to the paste imposed by machine or equipment. The way the company is being managed may impact perceived control too. The more democracy in management style, the more extent to which employees are involved in decision-making. Authoritative style is something opposite – workers must obey imposed decisions from higher levels of management. Research show that the level of control in significantly related with level of work satisfaction.
  • Unclear roles or conflicting roles (contradictory expectations towards worker)
    As in case of control levels, also clear recognition of individual’s role in organization (i.e. at work) is related with work satisfaction. It is important to be clearly informed about your goals and scope of responsibility in relation to performed work.
    Another stress-generating situation is having conflicting roles at work. This may happen in several circumstances:
    • Conflict inside message sender – when expectations are incoherent, e.g. your supervisor demands you to be independent but also organizes your work in a manner which does not allow you to do it according your preferences
    • Conflict between message senders – when expectations towards your work are incoherent between different persons, e.g. your supervisor and your co-workers
    • Conflict between roles – when you play different roles in company, sometimes there may exist conflict between them
    • Conflict between role at work and your personality or personal beliefs – when your work is in opposition with your values
  • Lack of social support
    There are four types of social support recognized by literature:
    • Emotional – expressions of empathy, love, trust and caring
    • Instrumental – tangible aid and service
    • Informational – advice, suggestions and information
    • Appraisal – information useful for self-evaluation
  • Barrier for stressors – social support does not allow to appear
  • Buffer – impact of stressors are diminished and resulting health effect is decreased
  • Plausible direct relation between social support and well-being of worker