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From stress to engagement

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From psychosocial risk analysis (PRA) to psychosocial opportunity analysis (POA). From cost to benefit.

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Yes indeed, these days many employees suffer from serious stress problems.

And yes indeed, talking and writing about burnout is hot. And although prevalence figures are not always reliable and comparable, there is a general belief they are skyrocketing.

And yes indeed, talking and writing about burnout is hot. 

Many efforts are put in sensitising employers and employees to adhere the necessary attention to these risks and to take the necessary preventive and remedial actions.

In several European countries employers are legally obliged to undertake psychosocial risk assessments.

Not all employers are happy with this obligation. We have a great deal of sympathy with their concerns. Indeed such an assessment requires a considerable investment in resources and time. The focus tends to be on negative issues such as stress. In addition, the results are uncertain and if not accompanied or done in a professional way, such an exercise can result in turmoil, accusations and even destabilise the organisation… And you don’t want to end up with more stress while you wanted to prevent or fight it, do you?

And you don’t want to end up with more stress while you wanted to prevent or fight it, do you?

To these employers I would like to quote the words of the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff: ‘’To every disadvantage there is an advantage”.

We experienced that employers can do great things when they deal with this obligation in a positive way. By focusing on positive outcomes they can use psychosocial factors within the work situation as a leverage for positive returns such as job satisfaction, job commitment, engagement and productivity.

It is generally known that detecting psychosocial work-related risks can diminish stress complaints, absenteeism and harassment. Risks can be found in the match between tasks and individual competencies, coping style and energy. Nevertheless, bad functioning teams or leadership can cause harm, as well as bad perceived policies and organisational measures.

But few managers realise that optimising the psychosocial work environment can generate a huge impact on the bottom line. One method is conducting validated and anonymous questionnaires and methodologies. The results can give an excellent insight into work-related factors with the highest influence on key performance indicators, combined with increased job commitment and decreased levels of stress and burnout. Because people and context dynamics can vary, these factors will differ between organisations, between divisions, between teams.

Such insights are often the starting point for discussing and implementing actions on the different levels of the organisation (task, team, division, broader organisation) bringing new energy and benefits to all stakeholders.

To these employers I would like to quote the words of the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff: ‘’To every disadvantage there is an advantage”.

A company that – in addition – also put efforts in internal and external assistance support programmes to help individual employees who cope with specific work or life related challenges (e.g. via Employee Assistance Programmes) is in a strong position. Not only to be recognised as an excellent employer who provides the best possible support to its own employees, but also to outperform its competitors thanks to psychosocial leverage.

dirk antonissen

The author

Dirk Antonissen
President Employee Assistance European Forum | Partner ISW Eupora
Follow on twitter @DirkAntonissen