Origins of MSDs - psychosocial factors

Psychosocial factors are hidden behind “stress”, which we often refer to when we talk about psychosocial factors. Although we know that stress is a consequence of psychosocial factors, we do not know how to think of the determinants of psychosocial factors and their origins.

Psychosocial factors can come from:

  • The relationship between the employee and his work (perception of the intensity of the work, contradictory information, demand exceeding skills, unusual hours, unclear objectives, ...)
  • The personal equation (personality, control of emotions, history of the individual, ...)
  • Social relations (communication, hierarchization of relations, infantilization of employees, career prospects, lack of recognition, etc.)
  • Insecurity of the situation (socio-economic, transfer, no support for change, ...)

Psychosocial factors represent the interaction between man and his environment, how he perceives it, what information he will remember, how he will interact with it, how he will solve problematic situations, etc. Psychosocial factors are not problems in themselves, but when the employee feels threatened, in danger, we prefer to call it psychosocial risks, in the sense that they degrade his well-being and his quality of life at work. There are different forms of psychosocial risks such as stress, harassment, violence or burnout at work. They are among the factors in the appearance of many pathologies such as sleep disorders, depression or MSDs.

Let us come back to stress, which is undoubtedly the most observed psychosocial risk in a company, is when there is an imbalance between the demands linked to the work activity and the tools and resources available to the employee for it. These 2 characteristics depend on the employee's perception.

Stress is observed in 2 ways: acute stress, this stress is occasional and improbable; chronic stress that occurs repeatedly in everyday life. Chronic stress is a real problem because it is a source of occupational disease.

The origin of stress has known many patterns, models of actors and researchers who have looked into the subject.

The Siegrist model represents stress in the form of a balance, with on the one hand "efforts" which represent work demands, hours, tasks, etc., and on the other hand "rewards" in the form of recognition, gratuities, satisfaction, etc.

And to these 2 poles he adds a parameter which is the individual, the personal factor, which is made up of motivation, stress, professional and personal expectations, etc. For the same workstation, there will be an infinite number of individuals who will perceive this balance in a different way.

The Professional exhaustion, also called "burnout", is defined by Freudenberger as "a state of chronic fatigue, depression and frustration brought on by dedication to a cause, lifestyle or relationship, which fails to produce the long-awaited rewards and leads to reduced involvement and achievement at work". We can also add that the individual can no longer work or be productive in his activity.

We can now talk about "Bore-out", a term that appeared in 2007 in a book entitled "Diagnose Bore-Out" written by Peter WERDER, philosopher, and Philippe ROTHLIN, business consultant. They define it as a "psychological disorder caused by the boredom one can feel at work".According to them, the "Bore-out" is the result of 3 notions: boredom, lack of challenge and disinterestedness. In order to detect “burnout” as early as possible, questionnaires such as “Maslach BUrnout Inventory” (MBI), “Burnout Measure” or “Copenhagen Burnout Inventory” (CBI) have been developed.

Psychosocial risks are a key issue for the organization in order to protect employees. To prevent them, organizations implement activities or approaches that promote their work and well-being. We can take, for example, “Team building” (activities aimed at strengthening team cohesion) or the “care” approach. These approaches, in the world of work, consist in improving risk management and prevention.