Risk Management Assignment: Psychological Impact On Employees During Pandemic
Risk Management Assignment Brief: This assignment is the end-point of the Psychology of Workplace Activities module and as such must be written with a focus on psychological factors within the workplace.
You are the Safety and Risk manager of a large manufacturing company that produces a range of personal protective equipment used in health and social care. The company has a large warehouse and distribution hub along with an office-based team of employees in marketing, sales, HR, and management. All workers are located at the same site. In March 2020, the Government announced a national lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. The Chief Executive of the company has told you that the site has been asked to continue production and distribution to maintain the provision of PPE to health and social care providers, while office-based staff has now been asked to work from home. After a month, you are told that the Board of Directors has identified two significant issues and you have been asked to prepare a report for them to help the company prepare for the weeks and months ahead.
The two issues are
- Employees at the manufacturing site are extremely concerned about the risks of continuing to work at the site and need to be reassured that it is safe to do so. Production is falling which is putting increased pressure on managers and production workers to meet the level of demand. Stress-related absence is increasing and several staff is now threatening not to come to work.
- Office-based staff are worried that they are not able to work productively from home, and the Board is worried about the effect staff isolation may have on the mental health of this part of their workforce.
In the pandemic, the workforces in both frontline and work- based are exposed to psychological risks due to varied changes in work patterns and social environment. The main purpose of the risk management assignment is to analyse psychological hazards that both the manufacturing and office-based workforces of XYZ Manufacturing firms are exposed to. The report will also identify specific psychological hazards that should be managed for reducing risks and concerns within workplace scenarios. The pandemic has provided companies with new working patterns that can be adopted for aligning workforces with external environmental changes thus it is important for finding risks factors that might prevail in changed working structure. In addition to this, case study methods have been used for evaluating psychological risks and the measures that could be adopted in large manufacturing firms like XYZ. The report has been prepared from information available through all secondary sources like Google Scholar, Internet, web sources, books and others to draft the outlines of the assignment. The findings of the study included that companies like XYZ manufacturing companies should conduct risks analysis for detecting various types of Psychological risks and its impacts on both frontline and office- based workforces. The productivity of frontline and office-based employees has reduced in XYZ manufacturing, indicating impacts of stress and Psychological factors. Hence, the main aim of this report will be identifying sources of psychological risks within the XYZ manufacturing firm while also determining mitigation measures for the employees. The employees are majorly exposed to work-related stress that is increased workloads, reduction in leaves and resting times, long working hours, increased home responsibilities, and others. The managers of XYZ manufacturing firm need to undertake measures that relate to the working environment, work schedules, social support, work-life balance, negative coping behaviours for protecting the mental health of the employees from Psychological Hazards. In this view, the large manufacturing company has been recommended to encourage, enable resources to all employees for managing work-related stress. The only limitation to the study was the absence of primary data which could provide real-time impacts of Psychological Risks due to pandemic. The analysis and findings of the report aims to address managers and senior position employees for undertaking informed business decisions considering employee safety and well- being.
Workplace stress is a major issue that accompanies the workforce within their term of service with the firm. The government has created, designed, and implemented many reforms and policies for reducing work-related stress as part of Safety and Risk Management procedures (Stich et al, 2017). In the UK, approximately 18,595 individuals suffered from psychological issues out of which 40 % of illness was contributed by work-related stress. Issues that lead to work-related stress include stress, anxiety, prolonged depression, frequent visits to the GP, and others. In addition to this, in the year 2019/ 2020, approximately 828,000 workforces in the UK suffered from work-related stress, anxiety, and others that resulted in losing 17.9 million working hours (HSE, 2020). The above statistics state that work-related stress has increased in the past decades as the companies are striving for high competition, high market share, customer satisfaction that has increased the workload of the employees leading to psychological risks and poor mental health conditions (Kouvonen et al, 2013).
Thus, assessing risk and safety within the workplace is very important for all organizations for promoting the health and well-being of the employees (McVicar et al, 2013). The promotion of health and risk within the workplace helps in eliminating additional costs related to the medical care of employees along with saving costs and brand image from legal penalties due to violation of Health and Risk Regulations (Tetrick & Winslow, 2015). Also, maintaining the psychological health of the employees helps in improving overall business performance while also promoting societal health.
The purpose of the report is to underline psychological risks that have increased during the global pandemic as the workers either working isolation or are exposed to fear of getting infected from a virus that spreads through air and social contacts. In addition to this, the report will be constructed in two parts, Part 1 will define the identification of psychological risks while part 2 will determine the ways, identified risks can be mitigated or managed. The report will be prepared on issues faced by a large manufacturing company named XYZ. (XYZ name has been given for understanding purpose).
1.1 Aims and Objectives
Global pandemics have destroyed the world due to which the population is exposed to a variety of health and risk factors. Hence, the main aim of this report will be identifying sources of psychological risks within the XYZ manufacturing firm while also determining mitigation measures for the employees. XYZ manufacturing firm in the health sector engages in the production of PPE kits and other essential supplies hence the workforce is divided and working in isolations. The change in the working scenario has exposed the workforce to anxiety, work-related stress, and others.
The objective of the report will be offering practical guidance through which the management team of a manufacturing firm can manage the demands with improved production while also protecting the workforce from psychological risks that have increased due to the global pandemic. The specific objectives report is provided below
- Evaluating different types of Psychological risks that has arisen in the pandemic situation
- Analysing Risks and hazards for employees in XYZ manufacturing firms.
- Identify measures for mitigating risks in XYZ manufacturing companies.
- Evaluation of measures for mitigating Psychological Risks for XYZ Manufacturing Firms.
1.2 Assumptions for the report
This report will be prepared on the assumptions that
- The manufacturing company is named XYZ, it operates in the UK.
- The manufacturing company engages in the production of a range of Personal protective kits.
- The firm has a large manufacturing factory along with a huge office for other functions that HR, sales, accounting, and others.
- All workforce works on the same site.
- There two significant issues that have been identified by the Board of directors
- One of the issues relates to risks that concern employees working in the production function. The production has fallen that has put pressure on the production and the managers.
- The office-based staffs are working from home; however, productivity has declined due to which the managers and board are concerned about mental health issues by working in isolation.
1.3 Study Approach
The above assumption has prompted issues that might lead to several psychological issues for the workers. In the pandemic, a huge number of people have died while some of them are still struggling for proper treatment as the health care units are bogged with the high- patient count, lack of beds, oxygen, and other essential items. Due to this, a worker working in manufacturing units are scared that social contact while travelling and working might expose them to COVID- 19 infections. This anxiety and fear have not only impacted the production but also influenced the health of the worker in a negative way. In the normal conditions, the office-based employees are habitual in working with a huge group in a quiet, friendly and work atmosphere; however, working from home has raised the challenges of managing work and household work which has resulted in low productivity. It can be said that workers in manufacturing and office-based work are exposed to psychological and work-related stress that is also a violation of Health and Safety Laws and policies.
The management needs to take immediate steps so that the employee is protected from severe dangers of work-related stress in the long run that will harm the personal and professional life of the workforces. The XYZ manufacturing unit is legally obligated under the “Health and Safety at Work Act 1974” for assessing workplace risks while also mitigating them. In this view, the study will be approached by finding secondary sources related to Safety and Risk assessment during pandemics.
The study approach will include identifying key risks within the workplace that relates to Psychological hazards while also recommending practical measures that can be undertaken by the YYZ manufacturing firm.
1.4 Report Structure
The report structure will include over viewing risk assessments, types of hazards, risks related to specifically to psychological risks that are prevalent in the organization. The research will help in identifying potential mitigation measures that the XYZ manufacturing firm can apply on a short-term and long-term basis.
2.0 Part- 1 Identifying Psychological Hazard
To complete the risks assessment in the workplace, it is important to gain insights into different types of hazards that are prevalent in the organization. In the workplace environment, six categories of hazards are discussed below.
- Biological: These hazards include viruses, bacteria, insects, and animals which can impact the health adversely
- Chemical: In manufacturing units, a hazardous chemical is used that might exert both physical and mental health impacts that include irritation, corrosion, and others.
- Physical: The hazards related to physical factors like injuries deafness, noise, and other might impacts the employee without even the touching item is known as Physical Factors.
- Safety: This type of hazard creates unsafe working conditions that hinder the safety and well-being of the workforce.
- Ergonomic: These risks are resultant of physical factors such as musculoskeletal injuries.
- Psychosocial: The impacts of work-related stress or factors that influence the mental health of the employees are referred to as psychosocial pr Psychological hazards.
In the case of XYZ manufacturing units, it was identified that psychological hazards have been prevalent in the working condition of production and office-based work.
2.1 Psychosocial or Psychological Risks
As per ILO, every employee has the right to work in safe and healthy conditions. However, in the pandemic crisis, it has become challenging for companies like XYZ manufacturing units for resuming work and managing workplace safety. The frontline workers that working in the production, packaging, and transporting medical supplies have become exposed to stress due to the air spread of COVID-19 viruses. In this view, the demand for PPE and essential items has increased due to which workers are working for long hours with a reduction of resting times (Xiong et al, 2020). The workers are under pressure for continuing work due to family crises and loss of employment as many of the businesses are shut down due to the crisis. Also, to this, the frontline workers are not only maintaining social distancing within the workplace but also similar rules after returned to homes so that their families are not impacted by the virus (Hamouche, 2020). Since the business units are facing high losses, hence employee benefits, salary cut-offs have been introduced for saving costs which have increased stress for the employees as they are unable to meet the expenses with pay- cuts. All the steps taken for reducing costs have also increased the fear of job loss resulting in anxiety and depression.
The assumption for XYZ manufacturing firm to understand Work-related Stress during a pandemic
The workforce of XYZ manufacturing units might be facing below work-related stress.
- Increased Workload for meeting the demands
- Witnessing pressure for meeting deadlines
- Vague or challenging relations with other colleagues, prolonged Isolation
- Lack of Control in work schedule
- Unclear job roles or fear of losing the job
(Source: Scrivner et al, 2020)
The workforce working from home are also exposed to Psychological Risks due to working in prolonged isolation, balancing work and home responsibilities, high risk of domestic violence (Scrivner et al, 2020). The Psychological Risks has evolved especially during the pandemic as strict regulation have been announced from the government for controlling the spread of disease. It has become important for managing Psychological Risks during and post COVID-19 as they might lead to increased stress resulting in mental and physical health issues. The Physiological responses will include low mood, reduced motivation suicidal tendencies, depression, anxiety, and others (Rodríguez-Rey et al, 2020).
(Source: Ahmed et al, 2020)
2.2 Risk Assessment Process
In a pandemic situation, it is important for employers or detecting all existing hazards and assessing risks associated with them. The managers of XYZ manufacturing units should identify the potential sources of exposure and social contacts in working areas and tasks performed by the workers. Managers and OSG representatives need to identify any additional hazards that might have arisen due to the undertaking of safety measures (Dong et al, 2020). The resuming of work after series of lockdowns has increased several risk factors to physiological factors that are working for long hours, reduction in break times, high workload, deadline pressures, chemical hazards, and workplace violence due to frustration (Que et al, 2020). In a pandemic situation, like the COVID- 19, the managers need to understand external factor risks like fear, social isolation, and increased pressure of home responsibilities.
The office-based workers are working from home while the frontline workers are also maintaining physical distance due to which impacts of psychosocial risks have increased. To mitigate and manage, the organization should conduct online surveys and questionnaires for gaining insights about the physical and mental well- being of the workers. This data will help the organization in undertaking strategies that will meet the requirement of the individual workforce (Jin et al, 2020). The characteristics of each person in response to stressful conditions are different; hence, standard mitigation measures for all will be ineffective for reducing distress. For instance, the anxiety and depression amongst women workers are high while facing an emergency, thus women frontline workers should be evaluated for their physical and mental health (Ahmed et al, 2020). Also, men are majorly engaged in generating income for the family, are exposed to a high vulnerability related to job loss fear.
The population is at high risk of getting infected from COVID-19 as the individuals and elderly are already facing pre-existing health conditions that might result in self-isolation (Zhao et al, 2020). Self- Isolation or social isolation is directly connected to psychological risks like anxiety, depression, suicidal attempts, and others. Social distancing rules and stressful conditions arisen due to pandemic has increased the risks of exacerbating or triggering mental health issues amongst the individuals who are already suffering from poor mental health especially if they are infected with Covid-19, are living in isolation, or has lost economic independence (Choudhari, 2020). The employees that have faced mental conditions might feel intensity due to experiences of the pandemic; however, the workers that have pre-existing mental conditions might face worsening of mental issues.
The ILO has laid several guidelines that the company managers can follow for integrating workplace safety and promoting the mental health of the workforce during the pandemic. Protection of mental health hazards is one of the essential functions along with social distancing and other rules (ILO, 2020). The company managers and leaders should conduct a workplace risk assessment for identifying the work methods that could be changed or modified. The psychosocial factors should be considered while changing methods, procedures, materials for incorporating new normal conditions under the pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Hazard procedures should include
- Adapting to the risks and hazards identified by the enterprise.
- Reviewing and Modifying changes at regular intervals.
- Complying with national and international Laws doe reflecting good practices
- Updating knowledge about COVID-19 social distancing and other norms.
Risk Assessment within the organization might include the following areas that should be detected.
2.2. 1 Environment and Equipment: In this pandemic situation, the frontline worker is exposed to the anxiety of getting infected from the work task. Thus, lack of PPE kits, sanitisation might increase the anxiety while also hamper work productivity. The wearing of PPE kits, the mask might lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and dehydration (ILO, 2020). Also, the protective kits might create feelings of isolation due to physical and psychological distance from the managers and co-workers. Occupational Safety and Hazards should be available for off-site workers for protecting them from Psychological and ergonomic risks (Zhang et al, 2020). The organization should implement engineering and administering controls for reducing the exposure to the COVID-19.
2.2.2 Workload and Working Schedule: During the pandemic workforce in the manufacturing units (frontline and office-based) are required to work for long hours due to the pressure due to increased demand and reduced human resource capacity of the company (ILO, 2020). This is to say that, many workers that are migrants or stay at far distances are unable to commute to the working areas die to restrictions of movements and less available public transport (Mosli et al, 2020). Hence, the working force is pressured with work. Besides, not all working from home employees are equipped with a desktop, internet, and other resources thus working hours and pressure for others have increased (Scheid et al, 2020). The organisations like XYZ Manufacturing should identify both the scenarios that relate to over and under the workload. Also, new targets should be established as it will take time for the workforce for adjusting to the new working environment.
2.2.3 Work-Life Balance: Since the COVID- 19 impacts are high on the elderly, disable, or any other individual that has a pre-existing disease or mental conditions, hence work-life balance has become important for all workforce working from home or frontline (Lei & Klopack, 2020). It is very challenging for XYZ Manufacturing Unit for sharing their professional spaces with personal life participants like spouses, children, and parents.
2.2.4 Job Security
During the pandemic many organizations are losing business, hence, there is ambiguity about employment that will lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression levels. Thus, high levels of job insecurities might result in extremely low motivation and lack in compliance with safety measures undertaken, which will further lead to increased work- related injuries.
2.2.5 Communication, Information and Training
The open communication facilitates higher collaboration along improved work participation. The workforce that are engaged in informed decision- making about current circumstances will play an active role in detection of issues that relates to safety. It is very important for keeping aware about current legislations and authentic information on COVID-19 regulations for reducing anxiety and depression that might result due to fake news.
2.2.6 Violence and Harassment
Violence and Harassment impacts both physical and mental well- being. In the pandemic situation, mortality rate has increased with high uncertainty about vaccines, medicines, screening and tests that might increase anxiety levels amongst the workforce. Since, the majority of the workforce is working from home, hence cyberbullying has also increased.
2.2.7 Social Support
The working hours of commercial houses are maximum of 8- 9 hours due to which co- workers are more like family members. In such scenarios, since the organizations are working on reduced work base, social support for both work from home and frontline workers is required.
Several other factors should be considered while accessing the risks, the mitigation measures of the same will be described in Part 2.
3.0 Part- 2 Mitigation Measures of Psychological Risks for XYZ Manufacturing Unit
XYZ Manufacturing can consider the causes and reasons identified in Part- 1 while also follow mitigation measures for reducing risks related to Psychological Hazards.
3.1 Environment and Equipment
The managers of XYZ manufacturing units can implement engineering and administrative controls like measuring physical distance, promoting hygiene in working environments, improving ventilation, disinfecting & cleaning regularly. These practices can be implemented for the frontline workforce that is exposed to anxiety and fear of getting infected by disease (Pathania et al, 2020). The signs of exhaustion and dehydration should be taught to the workforce wearing PPE kits, while workers should maintain time- schedules taking breaks and hydrating (ILO, 2020).
The workers can be taught to use, wear remove, clean, store PPE kits correctly for avoiding the risks of suffocation and other physical health hazards. The management of the Manufacturing unit should ensure that an appropriate amount of PPE kits and hygienic measures are maintained at the production units (Zvolensky et al, 2020). For the workers working from home approp5riate equipment, resources should be given and taught for staying safe. To avoid ergonomic risks, training and coaching should be given for avoiding twisting of muscles, overreaching or bending, teaching to organize and space, and other OSH measures (Van Rooij et al, 2020).
3.2 Workload & Working Schedule
The workloads and work assignment should be assessed thereby identifying varied situations along with the productivity levels. The work for both the frontline and Work from Home should be redistributed and adjusted considering the capacities, restrictions, and COVID-19 crisis (Douglas et al, 2020). The tasks should be clearly defined, that is responsibility, task conflicts, realistic expectations, and others (ILO, 2020). The workers should be appreciated for coping with changes and making efforts for supporting the XYZ Manufacturing Unitin times of crisis. The workforce should be discussed for work-time schedules, over-time, work shifts, holidays, and leaves thus arranging working schedules to avoid long working hours for both working frontlines and work from home (Xiong et al, 2020). The off days should be checked to encourage the workforce from fatigue and high- pressured workloads and hours. The self-isolation of the home-based workforce can be reduced through online training opportunities, video conferencing, group projects for including all the employees on one platform.
3.3 Work-Life Balance
The working time arrangement should be allocated in a way that each employee can adhere to the increased duties and responsibilities. The workers should be informed about the sick leaves, annual leaves, while also providing compensations (If possible) for extra expenses incurred by the employees (Bodrud-Doza et al, 2020). In the pandemic crisis, the government has adopted many compensatory policies and strategies that should be communicated to the employees. The workers working from home should be given appropriate time for resting and balancing personal life along with professional work (Guadagno, 2020).
3.4 Job security
The workers are stressed and are likely to develop anxiety, burnout, and depression due to uncertainty arising from reducing business, job loss of family members, and others. The workers working in the frontline and home-based should be protected from unreasonable job loss. The workers should be reassured that undertaking sick leaves, reasonable breaks shall not lead to job loss or pay cuts (Leeb et al, 2020). The working hours and schedules should be reallocated in alignment with working standards and temporary national laws. For instance, the government of Glasgow has introduced several temporary laws cash grants, wage subsidies, allowances, temporary lay-off schemes, and others which should be explored by the managers and HR and timely communicated to the staff. Workplace uncertainty should be openly discussed with the employees through meetings, mail correspondence, and group projects (ILO, 2020).
3.5 Managerial Leadership
The authors and scholars have always claimed that effective leadership has positive impacts on the mental and well-being of employees working in different domains. The successful leadership practices will help in establishing functional Occupational and Safety Hazards that include strategies for catering to the increased demands of personal protective equipment along with management of psychological risks arisen due to pandemics. In this scenario, the leaders of the XYZ organization should undertake reliable information from government authorities of Glasgow for adopting workplace safety measures (ILO, 2020). The business practices, plans as well as Workplace Health and Safety should be updated with the external and internal conditions. The leaders of the Manufacturing Unit should consult with HSR representatives and the workforce for implementing and maintaining workplace practices (ILO, 2020).The leaders should try in forecasting future market trends along with the planning of the emergency requirements thus experience gained during the crisis will help in building the residency of the firm in the long- run. The leaders and managers should tryto be a role model for undertaking health and safety stress seriously that includes mental and physical stress conditions.
In addition to this, the employees should be communicated effectively for reducing anxiety related to misinformation. In addition, effective communication will help in increasing confidence and support from the employees towards the organization. Subsidies, aids, and other reassurance will reduce anxiety related to job loss hence articulating healthy working environment.
3.6 Social Support
Due to workplace structure, the employees tend to spend more time at workplaces thus they require social support for coping with the distress situation thus reducing impacts that are detrimental to mental health. The social support measures include appreciation, showing empathy, solving issues, and interacting with home-based workers and others. The managers of XYZ Manufacturing Units should use supportive approaches for the recognition and normalization of shared experiences and emotions. Online and offline channels should be established for the workers so that they can share their concerns and unprecedented circumstances (ILO, 2020). Workers especially working from home of the XYZ Manufacturing Units should be encouraged for maintaining social contacts through varied mediums like social media, emails, video conferencing, and others.
The buddy system should be created for monitoring stress, burnout, and other psychological factors that might exert a negative influence on the employees. The employees should be checked for pre-existing mental conditions for coping with pandemic situations. The workforce working through home-based work set-ups should be made acquaintance with the technique likes meditation, online tutorial apps, and other relaxation classes. The managers, as well as all workforces of the XYZ Manufacturing unit, should be encouraged to access psychosocial support services and other counselling programs for reducing work-related stress and factors of the pandemic that might lead to worsening of mental health conditions
3.7 Promoting Health and Preventing negative coping behaviours
Psychosocial risks and stress related to the workplace scenarios are directly linked to unhealthy behaviours that include high alcohol consumption, increased smoking of cigarettes and weed, inappropriate eating habits, low physical activity, and unusual sleep patterns. The negative coping behaviours for stress-related circumstances might lead to negative impacts on physical and mental health which further influences work performance. During the pandemics series of lockdowns and restrictions have exposed all individuals to psychological risks that have arisen due to social distancing, shutting down of schools, self-isolation, quarantines, job losses, business shutdowns, work from home, and others. The employees that have been working from homes have claimed that average screen times have increased that negatively influenced sleep patterns, exerting fatigue, and mental distress.
The cumulative impacts of inappropriate sleep on a prolonged basis might hamper the productivity of employees. Hence the working time of all employees should be rearranged considering their domestic responsibilities while also inquiring about their sleep patterns. The workers should be informed and educated about the benefits and disadvantages of healthy sleeping and lifestyles. HR and managers of XYZ Manufacturing firms should encourage workers from home-based work settings for working and exercising regularly from online available resources, live-streamed videos from Yoga and Dance tutorials.
4.0 Conclusions and Recommendations
In the year 2020, the entire world is suffering from the direct and indirect impacts of the novel corona virus. The virus spread from social contacts through the air due to which several mitigation measures have been adopted by the companies, governments, and residents. In this view, XYZ Manufacturing Units have been facing psychological risks as the workers in the production unit are scared of getting the infection through social contracts. The organization has been working in half capacity out of which half of the workers threatened not to attend job due to anxiety and fear. The home-based population has been working on low productivity levels thereby indicating impacts of social isolation and increased professional and domestic workloads. As a Health and Safety consultant, various assumptions and facts were researched to help XYZ Manufacturing Firm in managing work-related stress in times of COVID-19. The managers and leaders need to identify various risks of mental health that might be prevalent in the new working environment. For instance, the workers are facing high workloads due to increased demands for personal protective instruments, long working hours with reduced rest times. The workers might feel suffocated and dehydrated while wearing PPE kits for longer hours. The workforce working from home-based locations dedicated work chairs and tables that have increased fatigue while they have challenges in maintaining professional and domestic responsibilities. Hence, the XYZ Manufacturing Units are recommended to:
- Encourage and educate the workforce about maintaining safety and hygiene practices for preventing the spread of viruses.
- Teach about removing, using, and storing PPE kits to avoid suffocation and dehydration.
- Research on subsidies and support programs undertaken by the government and should be communicated to the employees.
- Enable social interactions through video conferencing, telephones, emails for home-based workers.
- Conduct a survey on the mental hazards and scenarios for devising strategies to meet the requirements of every employee.
- Redesign working schedules for enabling all workers to balance work- life.
- Encouraged workforce to watch videos and browse through articles for following healthy lifestyles for combating stress, fear, anxiety during the pandemic scenarios.
The companies like XYZ Manufacturing company should support their employees in following Safety and Healthy Measures in this pandemic.
The only limitation to the study was the absence of primary data which could provide real-time impacts of Psychological Risks due to pandemic
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