How high job demands can threaten your business

Job Demands

Why are high job demands costly?

As an organisational psychology company we are very familiar with the huge toll that psychosocial hazards can potentially have on an individual employee, a workforce, and a business. As a business owner or leader, one way you can easily reduce your exposure to this costly threat is by taking a strategic approach to protecting your employees against unhealthily high job demands.

Firstly, identifying and assessing the risks associated with high job demands on your employees needs to be a priority and obligation for your organisation. Job demands that are too high create psychosocial hazards, which means they can cause psychological and physical harm to your employees. This negatively impacts your business’ productivity and profitability.

What are high job demands?

High job demands means high levels of physical, mental or emotional effort are needed from an employee to do their role. It’s more than sometimes ‘being a little busy’. Be mindful that high job demands generally become a hazard when severe (e.g. very high), prolonged (e.g. long term), or frequent (e.g. happens often). Be very wary of the following issues.

High physical demands:

  • working long hours or without enough breaks
  • physically tiring tasks (e.g. extended periods on your feet, lifting heavy things or digging trenches), or
  • having too much to do in too little time.

High mental demands to consider:

  • not having the right skills or training for the task (e.g. inexperienced workers given complex tasks), or 
  • not having systems to prevent individual errors, particularly when they may have high consequences (e.g. expecting workers to memorise complex processes and not providing written prompts).

High emotional demands to consider:

  • exposure to aggression, violence, harassment or bullying
  • supporting people in distress (e.g. giving bad news, HR supporting employees), or 
  • displaying false emotions (e.g. being friendly to difficult customers).

Protecting your business

Certain high job demands will be unique to your workplace and you’ll be aware of these. Depending on the circumstances, these demands can have an immediate or longer-term negative impact on your employees and organisation.

To protect your workforce and business against this threat you firstly need to allocate the resources to identify where psychosocial hazards, associated with high job demands, are present in your workplace. You can do this by:

  • Consulting workers. Workers may talk about hazards in different ways. For example, they may say they feel stressed, burnt-out, worried or unmotivated. They may raise concerns about the workload, tasks or timeframes.
  • Using surveys and tools. If your business has more than 20 workers may find the ‘People at Work’ psychosocial risk assessment tool useful. 
  • Observe work and behaviours. For example, workers rushing or making a lot of mistakes may indicate job demands are too high. 
  • Review available information. For example, records of overtime, time off, injuries, incidents or workers’ compensation.
  • Have a way for workers to report and encourage reporting. Treating workers’ concerns seriously and respectfully will help encourage reporting.
  • Identify other hazards present and consider them together. Hazards can interact and combine to create new, changed or higher risks. For example, high workloads may create a higher risk if workers can’t take breaks, don’t have the right tools to do the job or workplace relationship are poor.
  • Consider how long, how often and how severely workers are exposed to hazards. The longer, more often and worse the exposure to high or low job demands the higher the risk that workers may be harmed. 

Review your control measures 

Once you’ve got the above strategic mitigation measures in place you must regularly review them to check they are protecting against ‘high job demand’ related psychosocial risks in your workplace. If a control measure is not effectively managing these risks you must review and make the appropriate changes.

HR and business leaders very often find it far more efficient and cost effective to employ external experts to better safeguard their employees and organisation from the threat of psychosocial hazards. Finding a tailored solution to protect your workplace can be very easy and cost effective if you know where to start. If you’d like to explore the best strategy to minimise your organisation’s exposure to psychosocial hazards reach out to us

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