Stress Risk Assessment: Definition & Steps

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A stress risk assessment is a tool to help identify and control threats that stressors present to employees. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this assessment and steps toward implementing it.

Risky Business

Imagine this scenario: You're inside preparing dinner while your children are outside playing. The phone rings and it's your neighbor from down the street. She tells you there is a suspicious-looking vehicle proceeding slowly down your road. What would you do - continue cooking or run to the door and tell your children to come in?

If you're like most parents, you would drop everything to ensure that your children aren't potentially at risk.

Employers have a similar responsibility: to protect their employees from risks in the workplace. Risks in the workplace include stressors that can cause mental, emotional, and physical symptoms in workers, as well as problems like poor work performance.

One of the ways employers can protect employees is through a stress risk assessment.

What is a Stress Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment works by identifying things that are harmful to people in a particular environment. Therefore, a stress risk assessment works by identifying stressors that may cause adverse conditions for employees so that employers can mitigate or eliminate the risks.

A stress risk assessment is a process, not a one-off questionnaire or survey to collect data. It works by first identifying the hazards and then implementing corrective action to ensure that employees are being taken care of.

Stressors come in all shapes and sizes in the workplace, ranging from job demands (such as an overwhelming workload) to how the relationships are between employees and managers to how clearly defined a worker's role is within the company.

Stress risk assessments are important for a number of reasons. First, they help to determine what impact stressors are having on employees so they can be corrected, thereby preventing physical, emotional, or mental distress. Second, assessments help ensure that an organization runs smoothly and efficiently. Third, they can help prevent small problems before they become larger, less manageable, and significantly more costly. Last, but certainly not least, is the amount of goodwill that a stress risk assessment can provide because it shows that a business is concerned about the well-being of its employees.

So, how exactly do you proceed with a stress risk assessment? Read on.

Performing a Stress Risk Assessment

As we've briefly touched on already, a stress risk assessment is not a one-step-and-you're-done affair; it's a four-step process that not only recognizes hazards in the workplace, but also works to control them.

Step #1: Find the Threats

Before you can adequately address workplace stressors, you must first know what they are. There are any number of places you can look to help identify these hazards, including records of employee absences or performance reviews; exit interviews; customer surveys; employee questionnaires; focus groups; and more.

For example, excessive employee absences might reveal a problem with an overwhelming workload or a toxic relationship between a worker and a manager. Customer feedback may indicate poor customer service experiences from employees who are suffering from the symptoms of workplace stress.

Step #2: Analyze the Threats

This step in a stress risk assessment allows you to ask yourself how serious the stressor is and what the consequences of allowing it to continue may be. It's no surprise that exposure to workplace stressors causes employees to suffer from poor productivity, missed work, and even diagnosed health problems. This is the step where you determine just exactly what threats employees are dealing with and the likelihood of damages as a result.

Workplace stressors ranging from a lack of clarity about an employee's job requirements to workplace bullying to lack of recognition for a job well done may be threats to an employee's well-being.

This step also requires you to prioritize the threats you discover so that you can deal with them appropriately, from most severe to least severe.

Step #3: Control the Threats

Once you know what you're facing in terms of workplace stressors and which are the most important to tackle first, you put a plan into action to control the risks.

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