Unlocking the Secrets of Workplace Stress
The Cortisol Connection and Psychosocial Safety Climate Role

The Australian Workplace Barometer (AWB) project aims to provide science driven evidence of Australian work conditions, through a national monitoring system. The study will be pivotal in understanding organisational psychosocial safety climate and workplace conditions and how these factors contribute to worker psychological health and wellbeing. Thanks to those that have previously participated we have produced a variety of discoveries about Australian workplaces. These results can be found at Safework Australia and StressCafé website.

AWB has collected data from participants across all Australian states and territories. Importantly the Australian Workplace Barometer (AWB) project was developed in order to set national benchmarks and provide evidence needed to develop best practice standards in the area of worker psychological health and wellbeing and provide crucial evidence for policy development, intervention targets and the provision of resources at the national, state and industry levels.
The research is guided by an innovative theoretical framework, Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) theory, which states that work conditions, worker health and engagement can be predicted when the Psychosocial Safety Climate of an organisation or work group is known.

We are collaborating with the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo on a follow-up study, to measure work-related stress and psychosocial risk factors. Our study will focus on identifying biomarkers of workplace stress through collecting and analyzing fingernail cortisol data. Participants must be employed or working as a sub-contractor for their current employer and have natural nails without any disease. Participation is entirely voluntary and incurs no cost to the participants. The study aims to enhance the health and well-being of Australian workers by acknowledging the impact of psychosocial factors, job demands, and work outcomes on an individual’s overall well-being and effectiveness in the workplace.
​​This research project focuses on the correlation between Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) and various factors such as job demands, job resources, psychological well-being, and work outcomes. Additionally, we investigate the role that cortisol levels play in understanding the complex factors contributing to workplace stress. Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, provides valuable insights into the mechanisms behind employee stressors in their work environments.

The study aims to provide valuable insights into the well-being of employees, enabling the identification of potential hazards, the creation of effective stress management interventions, and the improvement of job design. By taking a holistic approach, we seek to retain talented staff, reduce healthcare costs, increase productivity, and foster continuous development in the workplace.
Our study highlights the importance of Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) in influencing the well-being and safety of workers. We investigate its association with lower levels of effort and emotional demands, higher levels of reward, and a positive physical work environment. PSC is a precursor to job demands and resources, moderating the impact of job demands on psychological health.
Job demands, resources, and safety climate significantly impact workplace physical and psychosocial safety behaviour. High-stress levels lead to lower productivity, underscoring the need for proactive measures to ensure employees are not unnecessarily exposed to stress. Addressing workplace stress involves examining the complex interrelationships between psychosocial factors, job demands, job resources, psychological well-being, work outcomes, and cortisol regulation.

Establishing a robust Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) is crucial for effective workplace management, impacting employee well-being, job satisfaction, and overall organisational performance. Management commitment, communication, and participation are essential dimensions of PSC, influencing a positive work environment and promoting psychological well-being.
Excessive or sustained psychological demands can lead to burnout and other mental health issues, necessitating organisations to evaluate and manage these demands effectively. Proactive measures are crucial to ensuring the overall well-being of employees, considering both immediate and long-term impacts.

Our research explores the relationships between PSC, job demands, job resources, psychological health, work outcomes, and cortisol levels. By understanding these relationships, we aim to identify evidence-based approaches to create healthier and more supportive work environments.
We would like to invite you to be involved in the fifth round of this national study collecting data in 2023 that aims to improve the health of Australian workers. Additionally, you are invited to participate in the follow-up biomarker study, to register your interest complete the AWB survey and indicate that you would be interested in participating in future relevant projects. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this study, please contact ​Dr Ali Afsharian via email at or by calling +61 8 8302 4515. Alternatively, please contact Ms Amy Parkin via email at Please note that Professor Maureen Dollard is the head supervisor at the University of South Australia.


Research Team

​Professor Maureen Dollard (Head Supervisor)
​Dr Ali Afsharian (Project Leader)
Ms Cherie Crispin (Research Assistant)
Ms Amy Parkin (PhD Candidate & Research Assistant)


Research Team (International Collaborators)

Professor Akinori Nakata (International University of Health and Welfare)
Kazuki Kikunaga(PhD student | International University of Health and Welfare)