Preface

By André, Maria Helena | International Journal of Labour Research, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Preface


André, Maria Helena, International Journal of Labour Research


Psychosocial risks and their consequences such as stress, as well as violence and harassment at work - being all closely interrelated and often acting as contributing causes and consequences of one another - affect the well-being and occupational health and safety of workers.

Violence and harassment in the world of work have an impact not only on the victims but also on their co-workers and the working environment in general, as well as on companies that face organizational and economic repercussions.

Work-related stress is determined by psychosocial hazards found in work organization, work design, working conditions and labour relations. The interrelationship between work-related stress and violence develops when violence and harassment generate elevated stress levels affecting both the victims and witnesses among the co-workers. Furthermore, violence and harassment may occur as a result of work-related stress and psychosocial hazards. Conflicts arising from poor work organization that were not properly managed can also be a source of violence. Workplace organization and design, together with work intensity, are other relevant factors, as workers experiencing stress, conflict and/or isolation are at risk of psychosocial harm. In the age of accelerating technologies, the digitalization of work is bringing opportunities but is at the same time creating new health risks such as overwork, reduced autonomy and privacy, an "always-on" working environment and difficult integration of work and private life. The risks are even more acute for people engaged in precarious work as they fear retaliation, including loss of employment, if they report violent behaviours. Work-related stress emerges when the knowledge and coping abilities of an individual worker or of a group of workers are not matched with the demands of the job and expectations of the organizational culture of the enterprise they work for. It becomes a risk to health and safety when the situation in which work exceeding the worker's ability, resources and ability to cope becomes prolonged. The lack of social dialogue, combined with managerial choices (which are very frequently oriented towards profit maximization and not towards improvement of working conditions), may also create a workplace environment conducive to violence and harassment. In this regard, when conflicts arising from poor work organization are not managed, violence is often the likely outcome.

In times of change, coping successfully with psychosocial risks in the workplace is essential for protecting the health and well-being of workers while enhancing the productivity of organizations. Recognizing that psychosocial risks and their consequences constitute a serious threat to the health of individuals, organizations and national economies is a step in the right direction. Prevention and regulation could also help to mitigate psychosocial risks and their consequences in the world of work.

Social dialogue and collective bargaining have shown to have a positive outcome in these areas, and there are emerging good practices of how the social partners have addressed psychosocial risks and violence at work by influencing legislation or negotiating workplace measures.

Trade unions the world over have always been at the forefront of actions aimed at eliminating work-related stress and violence and harassment in the world of work. However, most of the successful stories come from European Union countries where, in the last 15 years, the social partners have succeeded in concluding three major framework agreements: an agreement on workrelated stress, aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of the phenomenon and providing a framework to identify and prevent stress-related problems at work; one on harassment and violence at work; and the European framework for psychosocial risk management (PRIMA-EF). …

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