Conclusions and recommendations for action from the EU Conference on Mental Health at the Workplace

The European Thematic Conference "Promotion of Mental Health and Well-being in
Workplaces" at the beginning of March 2011 in Berlin concluded the 8th ENWHP
initiative "work in tune with life. move europe". During this campaign there
were also three guideline brochures produced to help employers and employees to
implement measures to promote good mental health at work and to convince
European stakeholders and companies that it is necessary and worthwhile to
invest in programmes that help improve employees' mental health.

Conference conclusions

  • Mental health is an important indicator of the quality of social cohesion and the quality of work. It is also a core element of Europe's social model. Only a high degree of mental health will allow Europe to meet its economic and social challenges, while further advancing its aims of competitiveness and social cohesion.

  • The protection and promotion of mental health can make a vital contribution to the implementation of the European Union's "Europe 2020" agenda with its objective of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This is especially necessary to achieve one of the specific objectives of the agenda: raising the employment rate of the population, between the ages of 20 and 64 years, from the current 69% to at least 75%. Mental health is therefore addressed by the EU-flagship initiative "An Agenda for new Skills and Jobs".

  • In the area of mental health, prevention and promotion require a holistic approach which also takes the conditions at the workplace into account. Prevention of mental disorders and promotion of mental health in the workplace can be achieved not only by providing working conditions conducive to health - in particular the structure and organisation of workplaces - but also by promoting suitable individual behaviour, in particular, enhancing personal resources for coping with daily stressors. At the focal point of all efforts must be a culture of trust and appreciation, as well as involvement and personal responsibility. In all areas of life, these framework conditions make it possible for men and women to successfully cope with stress factors, to remain healthy and, at the same time, contribute to the social and economic development of their societies.

  • Protection and promotion measures in enterprises hold outstanding health policy potential. Having a profession and work are also integrative and stabilising factors for human selffulfilment.

  • Every individual bears responsibility for the maintenance of their own health. At the level of the enterprise, the creation of healthy working conditions and the promotion of physical and mental health forms part of its personnel and occupational safety and health policy, and also falls under the employer's sphere of responsibility. However, the employee, too, bears personal responsibility for the maintenance of his/her mental health. At the same time, we are observing an increasing number of enterprises at which employers and employees jointly conduct health promotion programmes which also strengthen employee mental health.

  • Within the framework of labour and social policy, both at the European and at the national level, a legal framework has been created for measures at the workplace to protect and promote mental health. The framework directive 89 391/EEC, for example, stipulates that "employers have a duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to the work". In addition, at the EU level, the social partners have adopted binding framework agreements, in particular those relating to work-related stress and the prevention of violence and harassment in the workplace. Within the framework of sectoral social dialogue, the first, non-binding guidelines on mental health at work have been elaborated and these are to be followed by others.

  • An important role in providing support for business is also played by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU OSHA), as well as the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), working together with the corresponding structures in the Member States.

  • Networks such as the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP) and the European Business Network for Social Responsibility (CSR Europe), or initiatives such as the Workplace Wellness Alliance of the World Economic Forum (WEF), also support the dissemination of good practices to promote mental health and well-being at the workplace.

  • It can be observed that workplace prevention and health promotion are worthwhile endeavours for enterprises and business. Healthy, productive employees make a vital contribution to a company's success and ompetitiveness. Consequently, forward-looking enterprises have systematically included the promotion of their employees' health in their management policy.

  • Nevertheless, what remains a challenge is the fact that, whereas larger enterprises often have the necessary resources at their disposal for promotion and prevention activities, small and medium-sized enterprises may have to rely on support from external sources.

  • Encouraging more enterprises in the European Union to commit to the promotion of mental health, will require the joint efforts of occupational safety and health protection as well as greater commitment on the part of the health sector.

  • The health care system is well-placed to create or further develop a supportive infrastructure for workplace health promotion.

  • Effective co-operation and partnership among institutions of the health care system and those responsible for occupational safety and health protection are vital to this process.

More information - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work