11/19/2008

New report on mental health and well-being at work

Wellbeing at work has increasingly become a concern for employees, employers,
professional bodies and Government alike. In a world of changing work
practices, work structures, global market forces and technological innovation,
greater burdens are being placed on all levels of society, particularly for
those of working age. Work-related stress is a complex issue and is widely
recognised as a major challenge to global public health. The costs of stress in
the workplace arise from sickness absence, labour turnover, premature
retirement due to ill health, escalating health insurance and treatment of the
consequences of stress.

Both mental wellbeing and stress are complex issues. The contemporary view of
stress is to consider it in terms of a transaction between the individual and
the environment. In this way stress does not reside solely in the individual
nor in the environment, but in the transaction between the two. It is through
the dynamics of this transaction that levels of wellbeing and stress are
determined. This approach is particularly important since, by focusing on the
transactional nature of stress, attention is drawn to those psychological
processes that link the individual and the environment. In so doing,
possible causal pathways are suggested for exploring the nature of stress.

An example of a psychological process which links the individual to the
environment is the process of appraisal. Here, stress arises when the demands
of a particular encounter are appraised by the individual, and are considered
to tax or exceed the resources available, thereby threatening wellbeing34.
There are two types of appraisal. The first (primary appraisal) is where the
individual realises that something of importance "is at stake.” It is where the
individual gives meaning to the encounter and is usually expressed in terms of
harm, threat, loss or challenge in relation to wellbeing. Once an encounter is
appraised in this way, then the concern is with what can be done about it
(secondary appraisal). It is here where coping resources are evaluated to deal
with the encounter. These two phases of appraisal are the key to understanding
the nature of work-stress and relevant coping processes.

In a new report by the British Foresight Group and sponsored by the Department
for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the researchers consider the
evolving nature of work and its impact on mental wellbeing. The analysis is
divided into three broad sections. First, they review past and present factors
that have influenced the nature of work, and use these to explore its changing
organisation (Chapter 2), and the changing nature of the workforce (Chapter 3).
Finally, Chapter 4 draws on the foregoing discussion to identify and discuss
major challenges associated with work that are likely to arise over the next 20
years.

The discussion in this report has also been informed by a survey which has
explored the opinions of leading experts in the field of work-related stress,
and health and safety. In particular, they were asked to identify: the most
significant factors that will influence the nature and structure of work over
the next 10 years; the ways in which these factors will influence work; the
most significant differences between work as we currently experience it, and
work in 10 years' time; and the impact such differences will have on wellbeing.


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AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at work