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Employee Mental Wellbeing and Work-Related Stress (WRS)

Recent environmental developments and challenges with measuring and monitoring Mental Wellbeing and WRS have pushed organisations to attempt the adoption of frameworks and tactics to ensure ongoing employee wellbeing in the workplace.

However, recent research carried out by non-profit organisations such as Mind, the Mental Health Charity, shows that not all organisations are consistent in their practices, with new obstacles faced due to the need of resorting to hybrid or home-working approaches.

So, what can you do as a manager to ease work related stress among your employees?

In this article, we explore current trends and discusses solutions for employers and employees for a successful long-term approach to managing, monitoring and measuring employee wellbeing and work-related stress (WRS).

Occupational Safety Health Management continues to present a challenge for many organisations across a variety of industries. While scholarly articles express unified views on the advancements and unanimous adoption of Occupational Safety Health management systems, it is also argued that psychological risks have been more prevalent in modern times, yielding mixed results from the adoption of structured frameworks to mitigate the occurrence of such risks within a workplace.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work defines psychological risks as those hazards that arise from poor work design, poor management, and shortcomings in organisational strategic objectives. Moreover, psychological risks could also manifest through poor social context of work, as this may cause negative physical, social, and psychological outcomes such as depression, burnout, or work-related stress (WRS).

Consequently, these factors have the potential of triggering a decrease in organisational productivity due to the implications on employees’ mental health and the repercussions of WRS in team members’ ability to deliver the company’s expected performance objectives.

From as early as 1990, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has been collecting data on working environments across Europe.

A report published in 2007, which surveyed 21,000 workers, shows that approximately 29% reported that WRS affected their health. The most recent data published in 2015, shows an increase to 34% for the same number of workers surveyed.

The World Health Organisation defines mental wellbeing as “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Scholarly articles argue that mental health at work is a modern pivotal aspect of overall employee wellbeing in the workplace.

In fact, employee wellbeing is a topic of great interest amongst OSH scholars, due to a lack of a proper theoretical model and a comprehensive specific tool to measure it within workplaces. Specifically, the notion of mental health amongst employees within a workplace has taken centre stage in recent times, especially in light of the implications of the global pandemic.

Research shows that employee mental wellbeing is a significant element of concern within a variety of industries; in fact, it is argued that it has a substantial role on the performance of organisations by impacting costs related to ill health and care, absenteeism, turnover, and job performance.

Positive mental wellbeing increases productivity at individual and organisational levels, whereas in the occurrence of shortcomings within it, the organisation may face cumulative financial as well as non-financial losses.

The adoption of a systematic and standardised approach to OSH management was initially implemented in high-risk process activities, in response to lessons from significant tragedies and the impact of wider theoretical and management advances, including generic systems theory and quality management.

Researchers have attempted to draft models to systematically approach employee wellbeing in the workplace. Amongst the most reoccurring factors to be measured, authors suggest that a life satisfaction scale, positive and negative affect schedule, workplace wellbeing indices and affective wellbeing scales should be considered when measuring workplace performance.

However, in a significant article published in 2015, Zheng et al. suggests that a lack of consensus remains with regards to a uniform structure and measurement methodology; in fact, in their study on measuring wellbeing, the researchers implemented qualitative and quantitative methods by distributing surveys and conducting semi-structured interviews. Consequently, it can be argued that the measurement of employee mental health and other psychological risks within the workplace could result challenging to oversee through a systematic and standardised approach.

Given the mixed results of studies conducted in the past by scholarly experts in the matter, it can be questioned whether the introduction of a systematic and internationally recognised approach would be effective to managing WRS and employee mental wellbeing, given the challenges presented with the measurement and subjectivity of the notions. However, it can also be argued that a robust experience in the field can assist in ensuring that the implementation phases are carried out efficiently.

Social Developments

Recent modern social developments across cultures have led to significant shifts in employment patterns through a higher degree of flexibility in work processes, and a greater utilisation of temporary work and part-time employment contracting. Recent academic literature argues that these methods can cause higher job demands, alongside a higher degree of job insecurity due to the challenges presented in controlling one’s work; consequently, these factors play a pivotal role in increasing WRS and its associated disorders, such as poor mental health.

Technology Awareness

Modern working life patterns cause workers to undergo greater levels of pressure than ever before, due to advancements in technology, the use of the Internet, and new digital means of communicating. The boundaries between personal and work life are currently becoming a challenge to be clearly identified, as employees on a global scale believe that providing their employer with their availability for longer and providing a quick response to messages and electronic mail is a symbol of optimal performance.

Even with the recent transition to hybrid working and, in some cases, working-from-home, employees from a variety of industries are experiencing shortcomings in WRS and mental wellbeing.

Therefore, ensuring that employees have access to the right tools and support to ensure that their wellbeing is looked after is essential to ensure organisational success and long-term positivity in the achievement of company aims and objectives. Through effective leadership involvement, communication, and transparency, organisations can implement solutions that would impact various aspects of their performance.

Tools To Benefit Your Employee's Wellbeing

Embark Consulting can provide organisations with the correct implementation phases of ISO 45003, especially for organisations that already adopt ISO frame works such as ISO 45001.

Tools like these can ensure that the right resources are provided to employers and employees to measure, monitor and continuously improve how mental wellbeing and WRS are managed at work and from home.

For instance, companies may benefit from accessing methods of dynamically ensuring employee wellbeing or carrying out remote DSE assessments to ensure comfort and legal compliance is achieved even if working from home.

Moreover, employers can also be provided with tools to ensure that employees have sufficient break times away from their desks, or that a hybrid working pattern can be followed to balance professional and personal lives, in line with organisational objectives.


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