Psychosocial Health Risks in Companies

Qualitative survey of company directors and employees on sustainable changes in small enterprises implemented in the context of the VitaLab health promotion project.

Impact analysis

At the start of 2014, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) launched a new focal topic of labour law enforcement to strengthen prevention in the area of psychosocial risks in the workplace. In a first phase, examples of good practice will be looked for. This research study aims to carry out an impact analysis of the measures for workplace health promotion (WHP) implemented in the context of the VitaLab project and to review adherence to criteria for good practice in small enterprises.

The method chosen is qualitative using interviews. Each interview was conducted with 10 employees and company directors who used WHP services of the VitaLab project. The persons surveyed were employed at 12 companies in different branches of industry. Most of the small companies surveyed had 7 to 20 employees. Sound recordings were made of all interviews, which were then transcribed and coded. The analyses were done using structured-thematic qualitative content analysis, in which categories were developed based on the text.

It was found that 61% of all interview participants reported that they recognized changes due to the influence of the VitaLab interventions. The perceived changes were mainly in improvement of social relationships and in the physical working environment. The effects on health indicators such as work satisfaction, absences, fluctuation, and quality of work performance proved to be traceable, but it is difficult to speak of clear impacts. Regarding the influence of the VitaLab interventions on psychosocial burdens in the company, 56% of company directors saw reductions as compared to only 37% of employees. Company directors reported in particular that improvements had been achieved through arrangements to cover absences, clarification of roles, reduction in overtime, and clearer internal processes. Good practice criteria (compliance with working hours, regular determination of health risks, communication system in case of health risks, participation and integration of health issues in management) were largely fulfilled in the companies surveyed. It was found that employees increasingly want regular and/or standardized discussion rounds.

Based on the results, six recommendations were formulated, including offering outside observations by an external trustworthy person, checklists for risk analysis, discussion guides, training or e-learning tools for managers, and courses on the importance of and necessity for influence by the company director on the health of employees.

Project leader



Janine Hentrich

Sarah Dubach