What leaders need to know about psychosocial hazards

There has been increasing awareness over the last few years about psychosocial hazards in the workplace. However, until recently, there has been a lack of guidance as to exactly what constitutes psychosocial hazards other than sexual harassment and bullying.

We are now starting to see more legislation (at least in Australia and we can only assume other countries will follow) which gives greater clarity as to the definition of psychosocial hazards, including the types of situations that can lead to psychosocial hazards.

Of course, avoiding psychosocial hazards isn’t something we should just be doing to stay out of the courts. Avoiding these will also help to enable a high performance culture which leads to greater profitability with less effort, burnout, sickness and mental health problems.

And at NEP we are certainly seeing a bit more of the “I’m really tired and it’s my boss’s fault” creeping in at many levels.

Many people even think that regardless of the outcomes they are achieving, that they deserve high remuneration and performance appraisal ratings just because of how hard they are working, and how tired they are feeling.

Seriously??? Yep – Houston we have a problem!

So it certainly does make sense from many angles to gain a great understanding of what these are, and how to avoid them in your workplace.

So what are psychosocial hazards?

Generally speaking, psychosocial hazards can be anything leading to a stressful work environment which may cause physical or mental injuries in the workplace which may include burnout, depression and anxiety.

Now given that over 70% of employees have claimed feelings of burnout over the last few years, and given that burnout can be seen as a psychosocial hazard, this warrants some further thought.

So while the above still leaves quite a bit of room for interpretation, the legislation starting to appear does include a few more specifics as to what causes these psychosocial hazards…

So what contributes to psychosocial hazards?

The below are more specific examples of the types of situations that may lead to psychosocial hazards:

  1. Excessive workload
  2. Low recognition
  3. Lack of psychological safety
  4. Lack of role clarity
  5. Lack of autonomy

Now of course, there is still a lot of ambiguity with the above examples. What’s not defined is, for example, what constitutes excessive workload?

And, it would naturally be expected that different roles, and different levels of seniority, will have different levels of expectations as to what workloads people should be expected to be able to cope with as part of the job.

What can you do to set things up so that these are never a problem?

Well the good news is, if you are already working with NEP you probably have most of this covered. So fear not…

But just in case you aren’t working with us yet – here are just a few ways that we help our clients to set up a great high performance culture.

Clarity, clarity and more clarity upfront

  • Provide clarity around your culture, the expectations of the workload and the role. For example, if calls with global offices are required, making the workdays longer, be clear on that.
  • Also be clear on how people can optimise their energy accordingly.
  • Providing clarity on company goals and making sure they are aligned with individual goals is also essential

Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes

  • Coach outcomes-based leadership for all of your leaders, including accountability and psychological safety
  • Make sure it’s part of the culture to constantly question existing practices. “Can we get these outcomes in an easier way?”

Coach people on how to manage work / life stress spillover

  • Yep it’s a thing – your team members may be experiencing stress at home, but this will creep into increased stress at work for themselves and those around them. So you may not think that their home stresses are your problem…but alas…

Coach mindset interventions (and the neuroscience behind them)

  • When people improve their psychological capital they increase their ability to cope with whatever work and life might throw at them and significantly reduce their chances of experiencing burnout and mental health issues.

Reduce internal meetings

  • Aargh – these suck energy, autonomy, and often create more ambiguity than they solve. Enough said!


So avoiding psychosocial hazards in the workplace is a very similar concept to promoting a high performance culture where everyone gets to do their best work for maximum profitability in a way that also allows people to feel energised with great health.

And that’s a win for everyone!

If you would like to discuss your current performance culture, and also where it could be, book your performance call with us now.