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WORK-RELATED FACTORS (WRF) AND THE ACTIONS TO TACKLE STRESS

Work-related factors cover the type of work, the worker themselves, and the workplace culture, and the physical work environment. They include both physical and psychological risks.
Two men wearing hard hats looking at a large piece of manufacturing equipment

Work-related factors are anything in the design or management of work that can positively or negatively impact worker stress that in time can lead to an injury.

  • Work-related factors that are seen to be demands, negatives or hazards that can increase stress.

  • Positive work-related factors (or job attributes) can offset the negatives and lower stress.


Stress is interconnected and cumulative

Some hazards might always be present at work, while others only occasionally.

Physical and psychosocial risks are connected - a physical risk doesn’t mean a physical injury and vice versa. And, it all adds up. There is a greater risk of stress when work-related factors combine and act together to have a bigger negative impact.


A stress-free, safe, and thriving workplace seeks to minimise the harmful work-related factors, hazards and demands; and maximise those work-related factors that are positive.


Learn more about the work-related factors and what actions to take to prevent or mitigate their impact on your m8tes.


Download the full suite of work-related factor descriptions and actions here.

WRF Work-Related Factors Descriptions and Actions
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.93MB

Prefer to take an individual approach?

Get a quick overview and download an individual action list for each work-related here

Cognitive / Mental Job Demands

Emotional Job Demands

​High and low job demands occurs when sustained high or low mental effort is required to do the job. Jobs with high cognitive demands require very high levels of concentration or sustained attention over time. Work with low job demands is not mentally demanding and can include tasks that are monotonous or don’t require much attention or concentration. Both types of work can be tiring and stressful, with increased error rates and poor work quality.


High mentally demanding tasks or jobs might include the following examples:

  • long work hours and shift work leading to higher risk of fatigue

  • high workloads, for example, too much to do, too many clients, fast work pace or significant time pressure

  • work that is beyond the worker’s capabilities or training

  • analysing complex and/or detailed information or doing detailed assembly work requiring high concentration

  • making complex decisions in situations with no guidelines or procedures

  • doing complex calculations, such as in engineering

  • needing to quickly evaluate complex situations, such as scheduling, competing and conflicting deadlines and production management

High and low emotional job demands occur when sustained high or low emotional effort is required to do the job.


Emotional demand occurs when workers are confronted with emotionally taxing, upsetting, or disturbing situations inherent in the job that impact on them personally. This may include tasks or activities that require workers to show false displays of emotion such as happiness and enthusiasm, even in situations that are frustrating, stressful or provoke anger. Emotionally demanding work can also be those in which workers are exposed to emotionally distressing or sensitive situations.


High emotionally demanding tasks or jobs might include the following examples:

  • engaging in conflict with customers, clients or co-workers

  • emotional effort responding to distressing situations or distressed or aggressive clients or co-workers

  • delivering 'bad news' to customers, clients or co-workers

  • undertaking performance conversations with underperforming workers

  • undertaking disciplinary processes

  • exposure to traumatic events or work-related violence; such as a workplace accident and/or injury

Cognitive-Mental Job Demands
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Emotional Job Demands
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Low Job Control

Low Role Clarity

Low job control is where workers have little control or influence over aspects of their work environment, decisions about their work tasks, how or when their work is done. These workers may have little freedom from supervision and oversight of their work.


Situations that can lead to low levels of job control include:

  • micromanaging workers

  • work that is machine or computer-based

  • work that is tightly managed or highly pre-determined and controlled

  • individual (not team-based) production targets

  • workers who have little say in the way they do their work, when they can take breaks, or change tasks

  • lack of opportunities to develop new skills

  • work that requires permission or sign-off before progressing with routine tasks

  • not being provided with access to tools, resources or information needed to carry out the job

  • workers are not involved in decisions that affect them or their clients.

Giving workers more control over their work leads to improved wellbeing and reduced work-related stress. Job control is key to offsetting the work-related stress of highly demanding jobs.

Low role clarity or ambiguity can lead to confusion about what work activities a worker should be undertaking, their responsibilities and what they are required to deliver. It can lead to frustration and conflict between co-workers due to confusion about task allocation and responsibilities.


Low role clarity involves jobs where:

  • there is uncertainty about job responsibilities

  • there is unclear, ambiguous or frequently changing expectations, standards or tasks

  • a worker is being asked to undertake tasks that are not typically a responsibility of the position

  • there is a lack of clarity about the priorities for individuals, teams and work units including what tasks need to be completed, who is responsible for the tasks and timeframes for completion

  • relevant information is withheld from the worker

  • there are conflicting job roles, responsibilities, or expectations, such as a worker is told one job is a priority, but another manager disagrees, or frequently changing priorities

  • there is allocation of the same task to two different workers, resulting in duplication of effort

  • there are multiple reporting lines or supervisors

  • there are changing position descriptions and/or areas of responsibility without consultation

Low Job Control
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Low Role Clarity
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Low Recognition & Reward

Poor Support

Recognition and reward refers to the acknowledgement provided to workers resulting in increased feelings of confidence, pride, and feeling valued for work contributions. Recognition and reward from supervisors, managers and co-workers can involve encouragement, gratitude, compliments, and other gestures of appreciation, and doesn’t need to involve financial reward.

Workers who feel recognised are more satisfied, engaged, loyal and perform more highly.


Low recognition and reward occurs in jobs where:

  • there is a lack of positive and meaningful feedback

  • there is an imbalance between workers’ efforts and formal and informal recognition and rewards

  • there is a lack of opportunity for skill development

  • skills and experience are under-used

  • there is uncertainty about or frequent changes to tasks and work standards

  • important task information is not available to the worker

  • there are conflicting job roles, responsibilities or expectations. For example, a worker is told one job is a priority but another manager disagrees

  • the absence of appropriate mechanisms and practices for regular performance discussions, performance planning and goal setting

  • others taking credit for work they did not contribute to

  • providing recognition or acknowledgement that is not meaningful or not attributed to specific situations

Support refers to the practical assistance and emotional support that managers, supervisors or co-workers provide on a day-to-day basis.


Poor support involves tasks or jobs where workers have inadequate:

  • emotional or practical support from supervisors and co-workers

  • information or training to support their work performance

  • tools, equipment and resources to do the job, including sharing resources

Low Recognition and Reward
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Poor Support
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Poor Workplace Relationships

Poor Organisational Change Management

Workplace relationships can positively or negatively affect the way a worker feels. Wherever groups of people work together, it’s likely that some conflict will arise from time to time. Prolonged and unresolved relationship conflict may result in work-related bullying.


Poor workplace relationships occur in jobs where there is:

  • workplace bullying, aggression, harassment, sexual harassment and gendered violence, discrimination or other unreasonable behaviour by co-workers, supervisors or clients

  • inappropriate remarks or jokes of a personal nature

  • poor relationships and/or conflict between workers and their managers, supervisors, co-workers, clients, or others the worker interacts with

  • inequality in the treatment of workers, this could be personal or work-related discussions, meetings and activities

  • perceptions that co-workers are not pulling their weight

  • management tolerating incivility, poor behaviour or conflict between workers

  • lack of fairness and equity in dealing with workplace issues or where performance issues are poorly managed

Poor change management can lead to workers feeling anxious and uncertain about aspects of their work or employment status.


Situations that may lead to poor organisational change management include not enough:

  • consultation and communication with key stakeholders and workers about major changes

  • failure to announce changes, communicate key messages and updates in a timely fashion and explaining the reasons for change

  • consideration of the potential health, safety and performance impacts during downsizing or relocations or the introduction of new technology and production processes

  • practical support for workers during transition times

Poor Workplace Relationships
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Poor Organisational Change Management
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Poor Organisational Justice

Low Job Demands

Organisational justice refers to workers’ perceptions of fairness at work – both procedural and relational.

Workers who experience high organisational justice have higher satisfaction, loyalty, trust, commitment, flexibility and cooperation and they are less likely to experience work-related stress.


Poor organisational justice occurs in workplaces where there is:

  • the belief that rules do not apply

  • inadequate or inconsistent application of policies and procedures

  • excluding workers from consultation and decision-making

  • lack of transparency – where workers have the feeling that they are ‘kept in the dark’

  • unfairness or bias in decisions about allocation of resources and work

  • discrimination, harassment and inequitable treatment of workers

  • bias, impartiality, favouritism and nepotism

  • poor management of under-performance

  • failing to take appropriate action to address inappropriate behaviour, performance or misconduct

Low-demand tasks or jobs might include jobs where there is:

  • too little to do

  • little mental stimulation or problem solving

  • highly repetitive or monotonous tasks which require low levels of thought processing and little variety. For example, picking and packing products and monitoring production lines

  • long periods of attention looking for infrequent events, such as monitoring or quality control

Low demand jobs can lead to boredome or 'bore-out', a growing workplace trend that can lead to burnout and illness.


Boredom experienced in the workplace is shown to be associated with various negative consequences for the:

  • worker - including demotivation, anxiety and sadness that can lead to strong feelings of self-deprecation, depression, and even physical illness;

  • workplace - reduced performance and productivity from reduced worker effort and performance, and counterproductive work behaviour, and increased absenteeism, presenteeism, and high worker turnover.

Poor Organisational Justice
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Low Job Demands
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Physical Job Demands

Poor Environmental Conditions

High and low job demands occur when sustained high or low physical effort is required to do the job.

Jobs with high physical demands require workers to use their body to generate, restrain or absorb forces and movements or expend high levels of energy. The risk of harm increases when physical activity must be completed in a tight timeframe or in difficult environmental conditions.


High-demand tasks or jobs might include the following examples:

  • high force and sustained exertion

  • repetitive movement or sustaining uncomfortable body positions

  • long work hours and shiftwork

  • high workloads, for example, too much to do, too many clients or projects, fast work pace, or significant time pressure

  • frequently working in unpleasant or hazardous conditions. For example, working in poor environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures or noise, around hazardous chemicals or dangerous equipment

  • wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)

Poor environmental conditions involve exposure to poor-quality or hazardous working environments. Working in PPE, high and low temperatures, and noisy environments require more effort, and exposure to vibrations impact our ability to judge the amount of force needed to do our work. Exposure to poor environmental conditions increases the risk of worker fatigue.


Examples include:

  • hazardous manual handling

  • poor air quality

  • high noise levels

  • extreme temperatures

  • vibrations (whole body and localised)

  • crowded working area

  • untidy or cluttered workspaces

  • working near unsafe machinery

  • poor quality or broken equipment

  • poor quality or hard to access amenities, facilities and work areas

  • wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)


Physical Job Demands
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Poor Environmental Conditions
.pdf
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Manual & Repetitive Handling

Slips, Trips & Falls

Manual handling is where workers have to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or move something. Manual handling injuries are often complex and not caused by one isolated factor.

Most jobs involve carrying out some type of manual tasks, but not all of them are hazardous.


A manual task becomes hazardous when one or more of the following risk factors are present:

  • repetitive or sustained force

  • high or sudden force

  • repetitive movement

  • sustained or awkward posture

  • vibrations, whole body and localised


10,939 people reported manual or repetitive handling injuries in Victoria in 2019. This figure has been relatively stable for the last 5 years, and lower than the 10 year average.


Slips, trips and falls are the second most common cause of serious injuries at work after hazardous manual tasks, with both contributing to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). In addition to hazards in the physical environment / workplace, individual factors such as workload and time management, rushing around, fatigue, stress, and workers with disabilities or special needs can also contribute to the likelihood of an incident occurring.


The following factors can contribute to the risk of slips, trips and falls trips. It is usually a combination of these factors that create the risk:

  • contaminants - water, oil or grease, dust, metal shavings, plastic bags or off-cuts

  • types of floor surfaces

  • cleanliness

  • obstacles and other hazards - uneven flooring or cluttered walkways with low obstacles which are not easily visible or noticed

  • poor lighting

  • poor visibility of other people

  • unsuitable footwear


11, 465 people were injured by slip, trip, fall or being hit by a moving object in Victoria in 2019. This figure has been relatively stable for the last 10 years.

Manual and Repetitive Handling
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Slips Trips and Falls
.pdf
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Remote or Isolated Work

Hazardous Materials

Remote work is work at locations where access to resources and communications is difficult and travel times might be lengthy.


Isolated work is where there are no or few other people around or where access to help from others, especially in an emergency, might be difficult.


Hazardous considerations for remote or isolated work include:

  • limited access to communication devices

  • no regular contact with other workers or supervisors

  • lengthy periods of time away from others or working in isolation

  • work in locations where there is difficulty in immediate rescue or attendance of emergency services

  • failure to consider the potential work, health and safety and performance impacts during downsizing or relocations

  • where high risk activities are involved


High mentally demanding tasks or jobs might include the following examples:

  • long work hours and shift work leading to higher risk of fatigue

  • high workloads, for example, too much to do, too many clients, fast work pace or significant time pressure

  • work that is beyond the worker’s capabilities or training

  • analysing complex and/or detailed information or doing detailed assembly work requiring high concentration

  • making complex decisions in situations with no guidelines or procedures

  • doing complex calculations, such as in engineering

  • needing to quickly evaluate complex situations, such as scheduling, competing and conflicting deadlines and production management

Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles that can pose a significant risk to health and safety if not managed correctly. They may have health hazards, physical hazards or both.


Examples of chemicals that can cause adverse health effects include:

  • toxic chemicals

  • chemicals that cause skin damage

  • carcinogens


Examples of chemicals that can immediately injure people or damage property include:

  • flammable liquids

  • compressed gasses

  • explosives


Working with hazardous materials requires necessary control measures, including wearing personal protective equipment, to limit exposure and minimise risk, where additional care, concentration and individual responsibility is needed. This increases the worker’s exposure to stress and fatigue by placing the working in a situation of inherently higher risk.


Remote and Isolated Work
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Hazardous Materials
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Fatigue

Shiftwork

Fatigue is more than feeling tired. It is mental and physical exhaustion that reduces your ability to work safely and effectively. Generally, both work and non-work factors can lead to fatigue.


Fatigue can be caused by:

  • long periods or intense levels of mental or physical activity

  • physically demanding or monotonous work

  • mentally or emotionally demanding work

  • hot, cold or noisy workplaces

  • shift and night work

  • excessively long shifts

  • not enough time to recover between shifts

  • long commuting times and travelling for work

  • poor sleeping and other lifestyle factors


The long-term physical health effects of fatigue can include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and depression.


Fatigue can increase the likelihood of incidents and injuries in the workplace, particularly when doing safety critical tasks where significant consequences may arise if errors occur.


Fatigue can result in reduced productivity and an increase in near misses, incidents and injuries, even when the signs of fatigue may not be obvious.


Being fatigued can result in a low mood and shortened temper which can negatively impact on workplace relationships.


Shift workers and former shift workers show more signs of ill-health than people on fixed day work.


Shift workers experience a greater likelihood of fatigue, sleepiness, gastro-intestinal issues, depression and other mental health conditions.


A worker’s risk increases with the number of hours worked between 2.00am – 6.00am.


Many shift workers actually fall asleep briefly while working. These ‘microsleeps’ may last from seconds to three minutes and some shift workers may not be aware that they have nodded off.

Increased feelings of fatigue and sleepiness at work may make it difficult for workers to maintain concentration. This has implications for workplace safety, as judgement is impaired and response time slowed.


For shift workers, the impact of one sleepless night can be as great a workplace hazard as someone who has been drinking alcohol.

Fatigue
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Shiftwork
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Violent or Traumatic Events

Substance Abuse

A violent or traumatic workplace event is a workplace incident which exposes a worker to abuse, the threat of harm or actual harm and causes fear and distress which can lead to work- related stress and physical injury.


Secondary or vicarious trauma can occur and is associated with witnessing a fatality, or investigating a serious injury or fatality.

Substance abuse in the workplace compromises health and safety and impacts work performance. Substance use impairs a worker’s alertness, concentration and reflexes which can be dangerous for those who operate machinery and other heavy equipment, increasing the likelihood of a serious workplace accident in an otherwise preventable situation.


The culture of the workplace can play a large role in whether drinking and drug use are accepted and encouraged or discouraged and inhibited. Part of this culture can depend on the gender mix of workers. Substance abuse is predominately a greater risk in male dominated workplaces.


Alcohol and drug misuse cause Australians to 11.5 million sick days annually resulting in a $3 Billion cost to the Australian economy.


A study of the economic impact of substance abuse treatment found significant improvements in job-related performance:

  • 91% decrease in absenteeism

  • 88% decrease in problems with supervisors

  • 93% decrease in mistakes in work

  • 97% decrease in on-the-job injuries


Violent or Traumatic Events
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Substance Abuse and Misuse
.pdf
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Time Pressure or Role Overload

Role Conflict

Role overload is when a worker feels pressured by excessive workloads, difficult deadlines, and a general inability to fulfil workplace expectations in the time available.


Specific situations that can lead to role overload include:

  • being given unreasonable deadlines

  • lacking the resources required to complete tasks and projects including people, financial or physical resources

  • increased pressure due to the absence of team members through illness and planned or unplanned leave

  • allocating work tasks that are beyond a worker’s level of competence or capacity

  • placing excessive expectations on new or existing workers to learn new tasks quickly

  • inequitable distribution of work tasks within a team or unit

  • poor job design

Role conflict reflects the degree to which workers are expected to perform two or more incompatible tasks or roles simultaneously. For example, there may be incompatible demands and expectations placed on a worker by different groups or persons with whom a worker must interact.


Situations that can lead to role conflict include:

  • being given opposing work instructions or conflicting deadlines from two different managers

  • transitioning from a team member position to a manager role within the same team

  • having to comply with an organisational policy, procedure, work instruction or direction that is contrary to personal beliefs and values

  • requests to work extended or additional work hours that impact on the ability to meet family responsibilities


Time Pressure and Role Overload
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Role Conflict
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Group Task Conflict

Group task conflicts arise when there are disagreements over the goals, methods, processes, resources or needs of the team. Modest levels of task conflict can encourage creative thinking, problem solving and innovation. However, high levels, long-term or unmanaged conflict can be stressful and can limit a workers' ability to focus and perform.


Supervisors can manage group task conflict by ensuring there is role clarity and appropriate communication across the team.


Situations that can lead to harmful group task conflict include:

  • strong differences of opinion regarding work tasks, processes and/or priorities

  • frequent competing priorities within or across teams

  • perceptions of being excluded from work-related discussions, meetings and activities

  • perceptions that co-workers are not ‘pulling their weight’ or making fair or equal contributions to the team and the work being undertaken

  • perceptions of inequity in the way team members are treated

Group Task Conflict
.pdf
Download PDF • 181KB


Download the full suite of work-related factor descriptions and actions here.

WRF Work-Related Factors Descriptions and Actions
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.93MB


Know what factors impact your workm8tes & take action

Understanding your workplace's risks and the work-related factors that impact your workm8tes is the first step to tackling the causes of workplace stress. Use the free online Workplace Risk Assessment tool to identify the work-related factors present in the work your team or workplace does that place your workers at a high-risk of harm, and get a tailored, prioritised list what preventative actions and mitigations you can take to address them.




Not convinced? Take a look at this overview and business case - and make the case to your get your leadership team onboard.


Business Case - Workplace Survey Tool
.pdf
Download PDF • 2.69MB

Get on the front foot

Prevent workplace stress through good job design. Good job design removes, reduces, and minimises the work-related factors that cause workplace stress, and amplifies the parts of a job that are positive and fulfilling.

Find out what makes a good job, and take our online job assessment to see how your jobs measure up, and get a tailored action plan to create better, stress free jobs.




It starts with you

Create better outcomes for your work and workm8tes.

We’ve got the tools for you to create a stress-free, safe and thriving workplace.


These tools are informed by extensive research and designed by workers in manufacturing to support you and your workm8tes.

For Senior Management

& HR/WHS Managers

For Supervisors

& Direct Managers

It all starts with you.


Change comes from the top.

Visible commitment from senior management, HR and work, health and safety managers is key to creating a thriving, safe and productive workplace.


Your actions set the tone of what is to follow.


Own your responsibilities and create a safe and productive workforce.


Know what you have to do, and get the resources to help you deliver.

It's in your hands.


You are the most important influencer of your workm8tes' wellbeing and performance. You have a key role in preventing work-related stress - as you have the greatest impact on their day-to-day wellbeing, and you are in the best position to notice when a workm8te might be struggling.


Big responsibility sure, but you don't need big shoulders for this one.


You have all the tools you need to master this right here.


Together we've got this.



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