Psychosocial risks: Tips for developing your own prevention plan

Legal regulations concerning psychosocial risks stipulate that every company, whether big or small, must include a regulatory approach to help prevent psychosocial risks such as stress and burnout. But where to begin? And, is a comprehensive risk assessment always required? These practical tips will set you on the right path.

Burnout rates among employees have steadily increased in recent years. Koen Van Hulst, head of psychosocial prevention at Mensura: “Absenteeism levels due to psychosocial stress have risen significantly over the past few years. Our psychosocial prevention advisors see this every day. More and more employees come to us to report that they are on the verge of burnout. We also hear from employers who see some of their employees clearly reaching their limit, and they don’t know what to do about it. The number of requests for support with the reintegration of workers who have been on long-term absence due to burnout is also on the rise.”

“At Mensura, we believe in a structured approach to tackle the problem of burnout. All too often, companies decide to just wait and see, whereas we believe that each individual  problem might indicate that there are bigger issues at hand. If you don’t take preventive measures, you risk losing one or several employees due to long-term absenteeism.”

Risk assessments: Who does what?

A preventive approach to psychosocial risks (including burnout) must be clearly outlined in a plan based on facts. Therefore, it is recommended to always conduct a psychosocial risk assessment first. However, many companies – smaller ones in particular – fear that this involves a costly and lengthy process. This fear is unwarranted, as you can easily start by finding out what you can do yourself and which actions require the services of an external department.

1. Make use of online tools and documents

Using common sense and some tools that are available online, you can formulate your own risk assessment policy – or at least most of it – depending on the size, complexity and particular hazards of your business. This process doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time or effort.  

There are three main elements to consider when developing a risk assessment model for psychosocial hazards:

  • map the five work-related domains
  • involve your employees in the process
  • ensure that the analysis leads to tangible actions.

A practical way to map all five work-related domains (i.e. job duties, terms and conditions of employment, interpersonal relations at work, working conditions, and the organisation of work) is through focus groups or one-on-one meetings. This way, you involve your employees and they too can put suggestions forward based on their own experiences and vision. As an employer, you then decide which options are feasible and are most likely to resolve the issues you are dealing with.  

Koen Van Hulst: “You can use this guide for psychosocial risk prevention in the workplace as a tool for drawing up, implementing and reviewing your action plan.

2. Ask your external department to perform an additional quality check

Perhaps you’re not quite sure whether your prevention plan is as good as it could be? The easiest way to verify this is by asking the external department to read through the document and make improvements where needed. A quality assurance check will give you peace of mind and ensures that your prevention plan will offer maximum results.

3. Call in the professionals

I you have neither the time nor the opportunity to identify and map the stressors in your business and take appropriate action, then you can always rely on the broad range of services available through your external department for prevention and protection.

Koen Van Hulst: “At Mensura, we always take a customised approach. Only when we have a clear view of the specific difficulties an organisation is facing do we determine the further steps. Examples of actions are resilience training, individual coaching of employees, or coaching to get back to work.”

“A preventive approach to First Aid for Mental Problems also considerably increases the effectiveness of organisations that want to prevent drop-out due to psychosocial difficulties. Managers learn to recognise signs of emerging mental problems in time, how to start a conversation about it, and how they may refer the sufferer to professional help. At the same time, detailed procedures ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and what to do if a mental crisis such as an anxiety attack occurs.”

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