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1592 Work stress, capitalism and the idea of psychosocial safety climate psychosocial safety climate: causes and costs of psychosocial risks at work
  1. Maureen F Dollard
  1. Asia Pacific Centre for Work Health and Safety, University of South Australia, A World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre in Occupational Health, Adelaide, Australia


Introduction The driving beat of most modern societal structures is economic rationalism under capitalism. Relentless demands for increased profits, performance and productivity coupled with reduced resources, predispose workers to poor quality work conditions. In turn, poor quality work conditions can lead to mental and physical ill-health, with significant costs to organisations such as high rates of sickness absence and reduced performance, and costs to society such as loss of potential labour supply and high rates of unemployment. Organisations characterised by a good psychosocial safety climate (PSC) offer a point of resistance to these pressures.

Psychosocial safety climate concerns the value and priority given to worker psychological health compared to productivity imperatives likely achieved through economic rationalist approaches such as downsizing and lean structures. Far from undermining productivity we expect that pro-social options embodied in high PSC organisations that value worker psychological health will lead to better quality work options, increased meaningfulness, increased possibility for creativity and innovation, and reduced productivity costs associated with sickness absence and presenteeism. This presentation responds to a public health priority and a call from the OECD to prevent and manage mental ill-health and promote health and well-being by drawing attention to the connexion between work and mental health.

Methods Multilevel evidence from around the globe will be presented to show that PSC precedes work quality (demands, resources) and the social-relational aspects of work (harassment and bullying, social support). Evidence supporting the expansion of work stress theories to include national (e.g., culture, legislation and regulation, corrupt values, welfare regimes, union representation), organisational (e.g., PSC) and team level factors will be explored. International research showing the impact of PSC on working conditions, health and productivity; cost estimates for improving PSC at work; PSC benchmarks for job strain and depression; and implications for work systems improvements will be discussed.

Results Evidence supports PSC as a ‘cause of the causes’ of work stress, and a theoretical precursor to many job design-based work stress theories.

Discussion This presentation will discuss contemporary economic policies, work stress issues, PSC theory and evidence-based implications for organisations and national level, policy, practices and procedures for worker psychological health. The presentation will highlight how PSC affects working conditions, employee health and well-being, and organisational outcomes, with evidence from around the globe.

  • Mental Health
  • Work Stress
  • Psychosocial Safety Climate

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