Mental Health at workplaces
How can companies respond to the impacts of a changing world of work on employee health, in particular in the face of the growing importance of mental demands at work?
How can public health policy as well as labour policy and the social security systems ensure a supporting infrastructure for companies, especially for small and medium-sized companies?
How can health policy, labour policy and social security sectors improve their co-operation to efficiently invest public resources, optimise economic competitiveness and social cohesion?
How can support for employees affected by poor health - caused among other factors by mental demands - at work be improved given the limitations of many health care systems in Europe?
Why is Workplace Health Promotion in the consensus of mental health important?
A sizeable part of the working aged population will be in employment. In work many, but not all, will come into contact with systems, processes and environments that will either enhance or threaten their health and wellbeing. Much is made nowadays of workplaces that are ‘toxic’ in nature and in which employees do not thrive and their health is compromised, and ‘precarious work’ in which certainty or security is threatened or non-existent. Such workplaces cannot be said to be ‘healthy’.
On the other hand there are excellent examples of companies and public sector organisation that clearly take great care of and demonstrate that they value their employees. Initial studies reveal that these organisations in turn benefit from this approach in terms of productivity, profitability and in being a workplace of choice (employer of choice) resulting in lower levels of staff turnover and easier recruitment of high quality staff. Such outcomes are not achieved by the workplace alone; rather it is a joint effort of all stakeholders. This is captured in the Luxembourg Declaration which recognises the role of the workplace in protecting and promoting health and wellbeing. Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) is the combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work.
This can be achieved through a combination of: improving the work organisation and the working environment; promoting active participation and encouraging personal development.
The challenges facing organisations today such as those of globalisation, demographic change, economic uncertainty and the need to remain competitive create a need – as expressed by the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP)…. in which the significant role of workplace health promotion (WHP) in addressing these issues is noted. ’ The future success of organisations is dependent on having well-qualified, motivated and healthy employees. WHP has a significant role to play in preparing and equipping people and organisations to face these challenges (Luxembourg Declaration 2007)
The workplace has long been recognised as being a setting in which health, including mental health, can be protected and promoted. The benefits of the workplace in this context are many and varied and include:
- A significant part of the population spends a considerable time in work each week.
- Being in work provides an individual with status, social interaction, purpose and satisfaction and leads to improved wellbeing and health.
- Workplaces have systems and processes in place that can be utilised to protect, promote and enhance workers’ health.
The thematic “Mental Health at Workplaces” is part of the “Joint Action on Mental Health and Well-being”, an initiative which sits within the framework of the 2 nd European Health Programme of the European Commission and the Member States of the EU in the period 2013 to 2016. The main aim of this joint action project is to ‘develop an action framework to support enterprises in adopting policies and practices which prevent mental ill-health and strengthen positive mental health’. This objective will be achieved by working with the representatives of eleven participating member states and their relevant stakeholders. The member states involved are Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Netherlands and Slovenia. The planned action will focus not on practices at enterprise level but on how the various stakeholders (apart from enterprises) can put in place a framework and supportive infrastructure which encourages enterprises to adopt initiatives that supports employees with mental health problems and promotes a positive corporate culture that prevents mental health at work.
European Exchange Conference
A key milestone of this Joint Action in this area is the organisaation of a structures exchange of experiences between participating countries. to this end the German Government represented by the Ministries of Health and of Labour and Social Affairs will host a European exchange conference which will take place in Berlin from the 29th until the 30th October, . Main organiser and leader of this thematic project of the Joint Action is the BKK Federal Association in Germany, one of the umbrella organisations of the Statutory Health Insurance Funds.
This conference will prepare a structured exchange of experiences to support the key stakeholders outside companies to improve their cross-sectoral co-operation. The first step in this process will be to share existing solutions and identify the most important unanswered challenges.
In this way, the conference will contribute towards improving coordination and collaboration among those responsible for mental health at the workplace like health and labour policymakers.
The overall goal is to incorporate the results into a European policy framework, promote mental health in its variety and become part of a European frame of reference for future measures in the field of public health.