Web ExclusiveOne-quarter of workers in Europe report feeling stressed at work all or most of the time, and a similar proportion say that work affects their health negatively.

Psychosocial risks — for example, monotonous tasks, high work intensity, tight deadlines, work-life unbalance, violence and harassment from the public or from colleagues — contribute to work-related stress. A new report, published as part of a Europe-wide campaign “Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress” gives a broad overview on psychosocial risks at European workplaces and gives examples on the way forward at political as well as company level —all illustrated with real-life examples and case studies.

Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for preventionis published jointly by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions (Eurofound).

The report acknowledges the complexity of the relationship between health and work and recognizes that practical support is needed to bring about change. It provides a snapshot of working conditions and the incidence of psychosocial risks in Europe, discusses how to manage those risks in the workplace and outlines policy interventions.

Director of EU-OSHA, Dr Christa Sedlatschek, described the report as an excellent example of interagency collaboration. “One of the key messages of our 2014–15 Healthy Workplaces Campaign is that psychosocial risks, although more sensitive, can be tackled in the same systematic way as ‘“traditional’ workplace risks. By combining their strengths, EU-OSHA and Eurofound have produced a state-of-the-art review that will make an important contribution to the success of this campaign in getting that message across. In the same way, by working together, management and employees can tackle workplace stress effectively.”

Director of Eurofound, Juan Menéndez-Valdés, commented, “Reducing psychosocial risks and protecting workers from these risks is critical for allowing longer working lives and preventing early labour market exits. Evidence shows that policies are not developed to the same extent in all European countries, which can be explained by the different traditions of social dialogue and different governmental approaches, often related to the importance the country gives to psychosocial risks. We hope that our joint report will provide practitioners and policy-makers with both the insight and incentive to overcome these challenges of psychosocial risks in the workplace. Research shows that the role of social dialogue and social partners is relevant to raise awareness and implement interventions.”

The report was launched in Brussels on 16 October at a seminar bringing together policy-makers, occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals, researchers and representatives of employers and trade unions from across Europe to discuss and share approaches for supporting workplaces across Europe in managing psychosocial risks at work.

In the context of longer working lives, reducing the prevalence of psychosocial risk at work is essential. Policy-makers should consider specific psychosocial risks for different groups of workers, including women, to improve working conditions for all.

Although fewer people report working long hours, as presented in the report, job insecurity has increased across Europe, and in some countries work intensity has risen in companies struggling in the economic crisis. Work-related stress is often seen as a ‘sensitive’ or ‘difficult’ area — a perception that may however differ from one country to another. In particular, managers of small companies find it difficult to tackle psychosocial risks because of lack of resources or expertise.

The 2014–15 Healthy Workplaces Campaign aims to address those difficulties by providing practical advice and support, raising awareness and stimulating debate. This report and seminar contribute towards meeting that aim by supporting stakeholders with information and illustrating the benefits of working together. By pooling their expertise, Eurofound and EU-OSHA can reach out more effectively to policy-makers and Europe’s workplaces and provide them with the information and support they need to manage stress and make Europe a better place to work.