Psychosocial Risk: Shifting the Focus to Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace

The impact of poor mental wellbeing on employees is becoming increasingly prevalent, with rising levels of at-work distress and absences. Mental health conditions are now responsible for a significant percentage of sickness absence days in the UK. Research shows that 54% of employees who experience multiple mental health-related absences end up quitting their jobs entirely.

These challenges can be attributed to the growing presence of psychosocial risks in the workplace. Psychosocial risks encompass various factors, such as the organisational structure, social dynamics, and work environment, which can negatively impact employees’ mental health. For instance, the surge in remote work has led to a decline in overall mental wellbeing and increased burnout due to the blurring of work-life boundaries.

To address these issues, experts emphasise the need to focus on the working environment rather than solely building individual resilience. The newly introduced ISO 45003 standard provides a framework for organisations to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses while promoting employee wellbeing. By integrating ISO 45003 with ISO 45001, which focuses on physical and psychological health protection, companies can adopt a comprehensive approach to managing psychosocial risks.

However, while ISO 45003 offers valuable guidance, some challenges remain. Drawing attention to the importance of psychological wellbeing and raising awareness of the term “psychosocial risk” are areas that need improvement, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Nevertheless, organisations are beginning to leverage ISO 45003 as a systematic tool, bridging the gap between human resources and occupational health departments.

By implementing a safety management system, organisations can assess their existing policies and procedures to identify and address gaps regarding psychological risk management. This approach enables the implementation of wellbeing interventions and facilitates regular reviews to control and mitigate workplace hazards. To ensure effectiveness, ISO 45003 encourages data collection for measuring and comparing psychological health management over time. This data-driven approach offers a comprehensive perspective on workplace mental health and assists in identifying problem areas.

Implementing ISO 45003 also serves to create a culture of psychological health and safety within organisations. It requires board-level ownership and emphasises the need for policies and processes to be translated into practical actions rather than remaining as paperwork. Moreover, top management’s commitment to understanding and prioritising psychosocial risk management sets the tone for successful cultural change.

Organisations that have embraced ISO 45003 have witnessed tangible benefits. From the development of mental health charters aligned with industry commitments to conducting risk assessments and including psychosocial risks in enterprise risk registers, these organisations are embedding psychological health and safety into all levels of operations.

Achieving success in this area requires early buy-in from top-level leadership. Recognising the critical connection between mental wellbeing, productivity, and safety is paramount. Prioritising employee wellbeing both promotes a positive work environment and safeguards against potential risks, ensuring a happier, more productive workforce.

While businesses have been slow to address mental wellbeing, the implementation of ISO 45003 can protect employee health and drive positive outcomes for both individuals and the overall organisation.

If your firm requires guidance or assistance on health & safety within the workplace, please get in touch with our team of expert health & safety consultants.