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Making a Genuine Difference to Employee Mental Health

Published: October 11, 2021

The increase in psychosocial risks requires a stronger focus on building individual mental health and emotional resilience at work.

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Did you know that psychological stress or mental disorders account for around half of all lost working days in Europe? And are you aware that employees who take sick leave for mental health reasons are commonly absent for an average of two to four weeks according to EU OSHA? These figures predate the COVID-19 pandemic. So an increase in the last two years is highly likely, particularly given statistics published by the OECD that point to soaring levels of anxiety and depression in 2020.

Many organisations are aware of the need to address mental health at work. But less than 30% have procedures in place for doing so and managers say they find it harder to tackle psychosocial risks than any other occupational health and safety issues. In fact, our recent report on attitudes to safety at work in Europe among leading safety figures, showed 97% did not believe they were doing enough to address psychosocial risks. At the very latest since the COVID crisis, it is clear though that organisations cannot get around improving management of psychosocial risks.

That requires a holistic approach to health and safety as part of the safety management system. Some organisations are already implementing this. Eva Trulsson, Vice President Responsible Care, Health, Safety & Environment at global specialty chemical company Perstorp AB explains. “We never talk about safety in isolation. We always talk about health and safety as connected needs. Mental health is an integral part of that, but it presents its own complexities. Unlike putting on a pair of safety goggles for protection, mental health problems are less evident to both see and prevent. But I still believe that that there are certain things that you can add to your framework that supports good physical and mental health. First, helping an employee understand their rights and how they can get support with all their health issues – within that framework, assisting managers in developing a clear understanding of the problems and how they can support and encourage an open dialogue on health issues.”

Romy Semler

Romy Semler

Subject Matter Expert Psychosocial Risk