From Stress to Engagement

From psychosocial risk analysis (PRA) to psychosocial opportunity analysis (POA). From cost to benefit.


Yes indeed, these days many employees suffer from serious stress problems.

And yes indeed, talking and writing about burnout is hot. And although prevalence figures are not always reliable and comparable, there is a general belief they are skyrocketing.

And yes indeed, talking and writing about burnout is hot.

Many efforts are put in sensitising employers and employees to adhere the necessary attention to these risks and to take the necessary preventive and remedial actions.

In several European countries employers are legally obliged to undertake psychosocial risk assessments.

Not all employers are happy with this obligation. We have a great deal of sympathy with their concerns. Indeed such an assessment requires a considerable investment in resources and time. The focus tends to be on negative issues such as stress. In addition, the results are uncertain and if not accompanied or done in a professional way, such an exercise can result in turmoil, accusations and even destabilise the organisation… And you don’t want to end up with more stress while you wanted to prevent or fight it, do you?

And you don’t want to end up with more stress while you wanted to prevent or fight it, do you?

To these employers I would like to quote the words of the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff: ‘’To every disadvantage there is an advantage”.

We experienced that employers can do great things when they deal with this obligation in a positive way. By focusing on positive outcomes they can use psychosocial factors within the work situation as a leverage for positive returns such as job satisfaction, job commitment, engagement and productivity.

It is generally known that detecting psychosocial work-related risks can diminish stress complaints, absenteeism and harassment. Risks can be found in the match between tasks and individual competencies, coping style and energy. Nevertheless, bad functioning teams or leadership can cause harm, as well as bad perceived policies and organisational measures.

But few managers realise that optimising the psychosocial work environment can generate a huge impact on the bottom line. One method is conducting validated and anonymous questionnaires and methodologies. The results can give an excellent insight into work-related factors with the highest influence on key performance indicators, combined with increased job commitment and decreased levels of stress and burnout. Because people and context dynamics can vary, these factors will differ between organisations, between divisions, between teams.

Such insights are often the starting point for discussing and implementing actions on the different levels of the organisation (task, team, division, broader organisation) bringing new energy and benefits to all stakeholders.

To these employers I would like to quote the words of the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff: ‘’To every disadvantage there is an advantage”.

A company that – in addition – also put efforts in internal and external assistance support programmes to help individual employees who cope with specific work or life related challenges (e.g. via Employee Assistance Programmes) is in a strong position. Not only to be recognised as an excellent employer who provides the best possible support to its own employees, but also to outperform its competitors thanks to psychosocial leverage.

World Violence and Terror Attacks

The recent waves of renewed world violence and terror attacks have shocked the world. As the pressure grows and tensions escalate, the impact of these events reaches far beyond the people directly involved. The impact can be felt by those of us who know and love the cities and countries that are under attack, who have connections with the victims and other people who are affected and by all of us who bear witness through for instance media exposure.

Such traumatic events affect our hearts and minds.

In our hearts we may experience emotions such as grief, confusion, fear, anger, love and hate. These emotions can be intense and at times overwhelming. In our hearts and minds we seek to make sense and give meaning those extraordinary events which should not belong in our day to day lives and are unanticipated.

How we cope with these extreme events will depend on many factors such as life experience, personal circumstances, and culture, personality and life skills. It is common and normal for people to become temporarily symptomatic as they come to terms with the impact of trauma.

The experience may be overwhelming and day to day functioning may be affected.

We may struggle to control our emotions or have difficulty concentrating and thinking. We may experience physical symptoms such as sleep disruption and physical aches We may be tempted to (over) use alcohol or drugs to quiet our minds and dull the pain.

Some people experience recurring and unbidden images of the event or a temporary crisis as they seek meaning and purpose in the face of events that have shocked their philosophy and purpose.

These are common and normal reactions to uncommon and extreme events.

The members of EAEF are specialized in providing human support and trauma intervention to individuals and organizations. Employers who would like to provide their employees with support, need help to restore normal functioning or need to address tensions in the workplace, can contact the EAEF coordinator Luci Ribeiro ( for referral to an Employee Assistance Program provider in their country.

Psychosocial risks are the biggest threat to the European workforce

Mr. Dirk Antonissen, current President of the EAEF, participated in a seminar organized by Eurocadres in the European Parliament.

Eurocadres organised a seminar in the European Parliament on the 22 April 2015 on psychosocial risks in cooperation with MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki and the ALDE group. A keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Zinta Podniece from DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. She pointed out that as many as 53% of workers see stress as the biggest occupational risk. There also exists a stigma around psychosocial symptoms, which means that things are done too late or that there is a lack of expertise. In fact 1 in 6 workers will suffer from mental health problems, which costs 240 billion euros annually in Europe. Especially professionals and managers are vulnerable for time pressure, conflicting demands between work life and social life, long hours and so on.
Dr. Podniece´s presentation was followed by a panel discussion where MEP Ole Christensen (S&D) and CEO Dirk Antonissen (ISW Limits) joined in. Mr. Christensen highlighted that is not a cost for businesses to take preventative measures or treat their workers, instead it is an investment to take care of the people who work for you. Mr Antonissen, who also is the president of Employee Assistance European Forum, underlined that it is a key for companies´ performance to tackle psychosocial risk. It is a return of investments.
Eurocadres president Martin Jefflén concluded the seminar by underlining that professionals and managers are highly affected by increasing work load, slimming of work organisations and downsizing as an overall strategy in managing companies and other undertakings. There has to be tools and measures to prevent 24/7 availability and a work/life balance.
Dirk Antonissen
EAEF, President

European Business and Community Leaders Launch new Charter to Target Depression in the Workplace

We know that depression has a huge economic impact, costing European employers an estimated £77 billion1 a year and now it’s time to act,” said Moya Greene, CEO of Royal Mail. “Guiding companies across Europe to implement best practices which manage the effects of depression will help to increase employee productive capacity and, more importantly, lighten the burden of depression on employees and their families.”