Guidelines: Managing Psychosocial Health Risks

As a result of an EU project on psychosocial health risks, new guidelines for managers to prevent stress and burnout at the workplace have been published. Today, 79% of European managers are concerned about work-related stress, while less than 30% of organisations in Europe have procedures in place for dealing with it. The publication gives an easy-to-read overview on the concept of psychosocial risks, its symptoms and ways to tackle them.

CEC European Managers had participated in the EU-funded project project “professionals and managers in the front line” between 2018 and 2019 , led by Eurocadres. The guidelines on psychosocial health risks are the result of a series of trainings conducted in this period. The publication comes at a time where a reported 61% of female managers experience sleeping problems and 20% of all managers experience anxiety, according to Eurofound’s 6th European Working Conditions Survey.

The project consisted in a series of seminars, during which selected managers from different countries and sectors have shared their views and personal experiences on psycho-social risks and the best strategies to fight them. These contributions offered the ground for the elaboration of the new guidelines. Finally, a conference took place in October 2019 in Lisbon, during which managers, experts, academicians and political representatives from the EU institutions have discussed the issue and identified solutions to go forward.

Managers share a double burden when it comes to stress, burnout and other issues. On the one hand, they are those who are most at risk for developing it and on the other hand, they are responsible for diminishing psychosocial health risks in the workplace in order to prevent team members from being affected. Against that background, the guidelines offer a useful toolbox to prevent stress from affecting health, performance and job satisfaction.

Please find a summary of the key points of the publication below.

1. The business case – not preventing is expensive

Costs for companies include:

    • Management of absenteeism and staff turnover
    • Staff replacement
    • Work-related accidents
    • Occupational diseases
    • Drop in productivity (unmotivated staff, work impairment, etc.)
    • Bad-quality products & services
    • A worsening of the working climate
    • Problems with a company’s image

2. Symptoms of stress

Symptoms of physical stress


• Aches and pains (in muscles or joints, headaches

• Gastrointestinal symptoms (colic, stomach ache)

• Diabetes

• Lipid disorders

• Hypertension

• Coronary heart disease

• Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

Symptoms of emotional stress


• Feelings of discomfort or suffering

• Workplace discomfort

• Sleep disorders





Symptoms of behavioural
• Use of psychoactive drugs

• Addictive conduct

• Attacks of nerves or tears at work

• Suicidal thoughts



3. Legislative measures taken at national level

  • In Sweden, the provisions on the “Organisational and social work environment “ regulates knowledge requirements, goals for the work environment, workloads, working hours and victimisation.
  • Belgium foresees five-year prevention plans and annual action plans to be submitted to a company’s health & safety committee for approval. Furthermore, a trustworthy support person available in the event of work-related problems must be identified.
  • In Denmark, labour inspectorates systematically check the psychosocial side of work environments.
  • In Portugal, employers must expressly indicate whether they have carried out assessment and prevention measures relating to psychosocial risks.

Besides protecting their own health, managers are also responsible for protecting their employees’ health. This double perspective is what constitutes the added value of the guidelines for managers.

4. Managing psychosocial risks

Map the 6 categories of recognised risk factors:

  • Work intensity and complexity
  • Emotional requirements
  • Low levels of decision-making autonomy
  • Weak social relationships
  • Value (ethical) conflicts
  • Employment and work insecurity

List the risk factors for each category:

  • Introduce concrete measures for the target populations
  • Introduce tools for assessing these measures (pilot tests, indicators, etc.)
  • For each of the actions targeted, define the concrete goals, the risks and the opportunities
  • Check the resources available and of use for these measures
  • And, above all, do not forget that this is not a one-off-action but a process continually evolving in line with needs.

Please find the full guidelines with further information and tools in serveral European languages here.