Psychosocial Risks for the Uninitiated

If you are a wellbeing expert, you are undoubtedly very familiar with the term ‘psychosocial risks’. However, for the uninitiated, this may be a phrase you are hearing more and more, but not quite sure what it is, and how it fits into your current understanding of workplace wellbeing.

What exactly does ‘psychosocial’ mean?

Put simply, when psycho and social are put together it means that something that has both ‘psychological’ and ‘social’ parts.

The word ‘psychosocial’ is often used to describe the relationship between a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and the social environment. More specifically – how the way we think and feel, and what we do, are influenced by and influence the physical and social settings we live and work in.

How is ‘psychosocial’ different from ‘psychological’?

The terms ‘psychosocial’ and ‘psychological’ are often used in conjunction, but they have slightly different meanings.

Psychological mainly refers to the mental and emotional state of a person.

Psychosocial, on the other hand, involves the way that an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by and influence the social contexts in which they occur.

In a nutshell, ‘psychosocial’ is external social factors interacting with the psychological state of an individual.

So what is a psychosocial risk then?

A psychosocial risk can be thought of as a workplace stressor or an occupational hazard that degrades an employee’s psychological wellbeing. Something at work that could cause us psychological harm or negatively impact our hauora (wellbeing).

If you are a leader, then think of the way work (the tasks your team do, where they are done, and who we interact with) affects how your team feel, thinks, and behaves.

Remember that the effect on your team can be positive, negative, or neutral and very different for different team members. The key is identifying who might be negatively affected, what may be causing harm, then figure out how to reduce the impact of that harm, as well as proactively strengthening the overall wellbeing capability of the team.

If I lead an office-based team – what are some examples of things that may cause my team harm?

Worksafe have a comprehensive list here, but here are some examples that may be helpful:

Interpersonal work relationships – conflict between team members that is ignored or not well managed.

Customer interactions– constantly dealing with aggressive, abusive customer interactions where the team don’t feel supported.

Unclear expectations – lack of role clarity, your team is unsure what is expected of them and what they should prioritise in busy times.

Where can I learn more?

Here are some resources leaders may find helpful:

Psychosocial factors: Pathways to harm and wellbeing

Managing psychosocial hazards at work

Protecting Mental Wellbeing at Work A Guide for CEOs and their organisations

Remember, addressing psychosocial risks isn’t just good for your team— it’s essential for their wellbeing and overall performance and productivity.

BlueSkyMinds has a range of tools to help manage psychosocial risks at work.

Contact us to find out more. Email Debbie at