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The Biggest Psychosocial Hazards Workers Are Facing

BY Michelle McQuaid

Worker burnout continues to pose a significant challenge for most workplaces with almost two-thirds of Australian workers (63.6%) reporting in May 2023 that they felt burned out. Most of these workers – 89.9% – have felt this way for some time.

“It is clear that there is a continued imbalance between the job demands and job resources workers are experiencing as the ‘new normal’ of work settles in,” explained Dr Paige Williams, co-founder of The Leaders Lab and one of the partners in the new research.  “The data showed this is having a significant impact on worker’s levels of engagement, performance, and turnover.”

For example, the study of more than 1,000 randomly selected Australian workers found that:

  • Workers who sometimes felt burned out were more likely to report lower levels of engagement (an average of 64 on a scale of 100), than workers who rarely felt burned out (72).
  • Workers who sometimes felt burned out were more likely to report lower levels of individual performance (an average of 76 on a scale of 100), than workers who rarely felt burned out (82).
  • Workers who sometimes felt burned out were twice as likely to report they intended to leave their jobs in the next six months than workers who rarely felt burned out (45.1% compared to 19.4%).

When it came to the causes of worker burnout the study found the most frequent psychosocial (emotional and social) hazards reported by workers were:

  • Lack of role clarity (95.3%) – This suggests that many workers are unclear about their role and responsibilities, and this is causing confusion and frustration.
  • Poor change management’ (79%) – Poorly planned, communicated or executed organizational changes are causing anxiety and job insecurity.
  • Inadequate reward and recognition (75.4%) – Not being valued or recognized is leaving people feeling demotivated, underappreciated, and unimportant.
  • Poor supervisor support (68.8%) – Lack of supervisor guidance, feedback and support is leaving workers feeling isolated and lacking direction.
  • Isolated work (68.1%) – Working from home without regular face-to-face interaction, is creating a lack of clear boundaries and disconnection for many workers.
  • Low job control (66.8%) – Little control over one’s work or lack of decision-making power is leaving workers feeling powerless and frustrated.
  • Unachievable job demands (64.2%) – Too much or too little work or not enough time for completion of work is leaving workers feeling stressed and anxious.

New codes (i.e., ISO 45003) and in some parts of Australia local legislation require workplaces to assess the frequency, impact, and duration of the impact of any psychosocial hazards your people are experiencing. Unfortunately, this information alone sheds little insight into the best ways to minimize or eliminate the risks based on what works well in your  workplace. Nor, does it enable you to assess the potential “safety gap” between the psychosocial safety support your workplace and leaders are providing and the experience your team members are having when it comes to minimizing psychosocial risks

For these reasons, the researchers recommend workplaces assess:

  • Hazards – The frequency, severity, and duration of the psychosocial hazards your people may be encountering.
  • Strengths – The frequency and impact of the psychosocial support your leaders and workplace are providing.
  • Safety Gaps – Any gaps that exist between the support being provided by your leaders and workplace and the levels of psychosocial risk still be experiencing by your people, and what is causing these gaps.

 How is your workplace taking a holistic approach to measuring psychosocial safety?

 To learn more about the study visit: www.theleaderslab.net/2023research.

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