Mental disorders arising from stress in the workplace have become an increasingly important concern for employees, employers and the general public. Over the last 10 years workrelated mental stress accounted for an average of 95 per cent of mental disorder claims.
The People at Work Project is a survey instrument developed by the University of Queensland (moved to Queensland University of Technology 2014), Australian National University, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, WorkCover New South Wales, WorkSafe Victoria, Comcare, Safe Work Australia and beyondblue.
The People at Work Project aim is to measure how different workplace characteristics influence workers' psychological health and wellbeing. Organisations involved in the project receive a report outlining unique risk factors to assist them in tailoring their work health and safety risk control plans and to ensure controls are implemented where they are most needed.
Using this process, management can consult with workers and develop an action plan to:
- clarify roles and responsibilities
- alter work schedules and recruit extra staff to meet work demands
- conduct 360 degree feedback for leaders, and
- implement procedures to raise issues and respond to conflict.
TS Burstow Funerals (Burstow) in Queensland is one example of how the People at Work Project can assist businesses. The survey results identified their main work stressors as time pressures, emotional demands, and team conflict. The results also indicated that there were risks from the high emotional demands associated with funeral work.
Following these results Burstow were able to implement controls to minimise these psychological risks including:
- educating staff about grief and loss
- training supervisors and peers to emotionally support staff, and
- where required providing qualified counsellors to support staff needs.
After implementing risk controls in their business, Burstows reported a range of improvements. These included reduced staff turnover, increased worker morale and resilience, improvements in their leader's skills (via 360 degree feedback) and an increase in visible peer support during and following distressing events.