Know the factors


There are common workplace factors that can impact workers’ mental health. These may apply across an organisation or have greater impact on particular teams, occupations or workers.

A worker may be affected by multiple workplace factors at once, which may increase the impact on their mental health.

Get to know these factors so you prevent them or reduce their impact with actions to improve mental health. These quick, cost-effective steps can make a big difference in your workplace.

What are the workplace factors?

Excessive demands, low-control

Workers in jobs with excessive demands and low control can experience job strain, also referred to as work stress. Compared to workers in high-control, low-demand jobs, workers experiencing job strain have a 75 to 100 percent greater risk of developing mental ill-health1. High-demand jobs are not a bad thing for workers, rather, it’s their ongoing combination with low-control that may become an issue. Actions that can help: clear job descriptions, monitor workload, flexible work, good work design, supporting co-workers.

Lack of support

If a worker feels unsupported by co-workers and managers it can impact on their mental health1, increase absences from work and prevent them seeking help. Actions that can help: create a positive and inclusive culture, mental health training, support co-workers.

Low recognition

When a worker makes an effort that significantly outweighs their reward, recognition or acknowledgement, they’re almost twice as likely to experience mental ill-health1. Actions that can help: recognition.

Poor change management

Poorly managed and communicated organisational change, whether large or small, can impact a worker’s mental health1. This can include changes to the business and the way you work such as restructure, mergers, downsizing, relocation, technology and management change or workload change1. Find out what managers can do to more effectively manage change2 and how workers can look after themselves3 during periods of change.


Job uncertainty or insecurity is about how secure a worker feels in their job. When a worker has a lack of clarity about the future of their role, their risk of mental ill-health can increase by up to 30 percent1. It is not always possible to prevent job uncertainty, but how you manage expectations and change can make all the difference.


SafeWork NSW defines workplace bullying as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to their health and safety. Bullying can occur in any workplace and can be harmful to your workers if they experience or witness it.

Examples of potential unreasonable behaviour include:

  • offensive language or comments
  • unjustified criticism
  • deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
  • withholding information that is needed for work.

All workers and managers can help prevent bullying. It's important to respond to bullying quickly because the longer it continues, the more difficult it is to address and the harder it becomes to repair work relationships. Actions that can help: create a positive inclusive culture, create an anti-bullying policy.

Unfair work practices

Workers may perceive the unexplained special treatment of other workers as unfair. The fairness of rules and social norms in a workplace is known as organisational justice. Workers may experience and perceive unfair rules and social norms in their workplace in how:

  • resources and benefits are distributed
  • fair and equitable decisions are made
  • dignified and respectful relationships are
  • management communicates information about workplace procedures.

Find out how to make your workplace a fair place to work with these tips from SafeWork NSW on organisational justice and work-related stress.

Unclear job descriptions

Workers can experience stress when they are unclear what is expected from them in their role or who they report to1. Actions that can help: clear job descriptions, monitor workload, support colleagues.

Workplace conflict and violence

Definitions of workplace conflict can include rudeness and social rejection; if ongoing, workplace conflict can become bullying1. Work-related violence is generally any incident where someone is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. Impacts of workplace conflict and violence can include4:

  • lost productivity
  • poor relationships
  • sabotage
  • legal issues and litigation
  • workplace violence and bullying
  • absenteeism or presenteeism
  • worker turnover
  • customer loss and impact on sales.

Non-workplace factors5 like grief, relationship difficulties, fatigue as a new parent, a serious health diagnosis or other life events may make workers even more vulnerable to workplace factors.

Now you know workplace factors to look out for, check out these simple ways to prevent them or reduce their impact.

  1. The University of Sydney, Review of Evidence of Psychosocial Risks for Mental Ill-health in the Workplace, 2017
  2. QLD Government, Change management best practices guide: Five key factors common to success in managing organisational change, retrieved from the Victorian Workplace Mental Wellbeing Collaboration (SuperFriend, VicHealth, WorkSafe Victoria) website
  3. SuperFriend website, How can your employees look after themselves through change?, 2018
  4. Proactive Resolutions website, The impact of conflict, 2018
  5. Black Dog Institute UNSW, Developing a mentally healthy workplace: A review of the literature, report prepared for the National Mental Health Commission, 2014