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As workplaces reopen, occupational health practitioners need to be proactive in encouraging best practice and new thinking,around areas such as workplace socialising, catering and food options, argues Liz Forte.
Mental health in the workplace is, rightly, gaining greater attention. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Since then, workers have faced an array of new or magnified impacts on their mental health – from juggling the responsibilities of an altered work/life balance, to worries about job security and additional financial strain.
In fact, Mental Health UK, which has recently partnered with us at catering company Eurest and facilities management firm 14forty, found in March that 46% of UK workers feel “more prone to extreme levels of stress” than they did one year before.
Concerningly, one in five said they felt “unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace.” The strain appears to be taking its toll disproportionately on different demographics, as women and young people reported feeling more prone to extreme stress and pressure at work.
The gradual return to physical workplaces we hope and expect to see over the coming months (even if the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is now causing problems) can be embraced as an opportunity to tackle mental health problems such as burnout, stress and anxiety that have been directly or indirectly brought on by work.
Working from home has brought some benefits for some people, but has also disrupted normal business hours and work/life balance while reducing our levels of human contact. Many have faced working extra hours – up to two hours of extra overtime per day in the UK – with a double burden of increased care responsibilities for children and relatives.
The return to work, then, might be welcom