High workload is the biggest mental health risk


The other silent pandemic, that of mental health, is increasingly a reality for all.

It was only when Íñigo Errejón, leader of Más País, brought the debate on mental health to the Congress of Deputies that public opinion began to look at this problem in the face. The media, advertising campaigns, social networks and the government itself began to talk about it more and more.

The World Health Organization had already warned, even before the start of the pandemic, that stress and depression was one of the main health risks of the people and that these were work-related.

The organization warned in 2015 that “There is no health without mental health”. This condition, which has worsened over time and with the precariousness of living conditions, was revealed as a result of COVID-19.

One of the issues to deal with after returning to some normality is the mental consequences. There was a very sharp deterioration in mental health, with an increase in people on psychological treatment or on prescription antidepressants.

Work-related conditions are the leading cause of poor mental health and this can be seen in the increase in voluntary resignations, which jumped 100% last March, approaching an all-time high, with 54% unmotivated workers in your work, even in times of uncertainty.

Moreover, according to the recent Adecco survey, 60% of Spanish employees feel stress or anxiety outside of the pandemic.

Last May was the first time a court recognized mental illness leave as an accident on the job, showing trend change in work design and the labor market.

Heavy workloads, precariousness, self-demand and bad bosses are the dynamics that COVID-19 has further accelerated in work environments, leading to increased depression, stress and anxiety.

According to research Employment, work and rrisks for Mental Health: analysis and intervention proposals, directed by Óscar Pérez Zapata and Gloria Álvarez Hernández, the factors most at risk for mental health are the intensity of work, precariousness, conflicting relationships and the meaning of work.

One of the authors, Oscar Perez Zapataprofessor at the Department of Business Management at the University of Comillas, explained to Business Insider Spain What were the most striking results of the survey?

Workload is the main risk for mental health, ahead of job insecurity

During the pandemic, there have been mainly four mental health risks: fear of contagion, fear of the economic crisis, the deterioration of social relations and the risks associated with teleworking.

Work at home and some flexibility it begins to be seen as a risk rather than a benefitsince it is directly linked to workloads and non-disconnection, explains the professor.

“When they ask us where is the world of work goingwe always reply that it is addressed to the precariousness, ie precariousness, low wages, high turnover; and towards the intensificationlinked to the increase in workloads to which we must respond more and more quickly”.

For Pérez Zapata, referring to traditional stress models in research, it doesn’t matter if you have loads as long as you have resources: control at work, social support, real flexibility, etc., but it becomes a problem when there are many prolonged stress peaks and these resources are not available. Workers burn out and begin to experience patterns of stress, anxiety and depression.

Tips to follow if you are “burned out” at work to avoid a more serious professional crisis

Digital workers are much more sensitive to work intensification

Hyperconnection, through digital devices, forces us to pay attention to emails and notifications all the time.

37% of Spaniards work an average of 3 days longer outside of their working day, in most cases due to the high workload, increased levels of stress and fatigueaccording to the Adecco survey.

One of the clear proofs of the study is that “Digital workers are much more sensitive to workloads and work intensification than non-digital workers”said the teacher. “If we compare employees from a workload perspective between those with digital environments and those without, the former are more exposed have mental health problems.

Shorter working hours pose a risk to women’s mental health

This measure, widely used in the workplace, was presented as one of the keys to family reconciliation, however, it involves certain risks for mental health, especially for women.

They are still the ones who reduce the day to take care of family care and household chores.

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Men have a higher risk of mental health due to workload, as evidenced by the study, but for women, they are in the majority in sectors such as health or education, with more demanding jobs; Additionally, they have junior positions and non-salary duties which together also put them at high risk.

“The reduction of the working day does not mean working fewer hours, but in a more precarious way”explains Pérez Zapata. “In addition to meeting the demands of the job, by spending more hours at home, the demands of household chores increase“, thus increasing the pressure on women and affecting their stress levels.

Some steps to reduce the risk of poor mental health

The debate on the 4-day trip. The proposal for a working day reduced to 32 hours per week in 4 days instead of 40, spread over 5, is still a pilot project.

However, this discussion of the days and hours of the working day is not so important for Pérez Zapata, because emphasis must be placed on the quality and rhythm of working time.

Incentives for businesses. Companies are not yet aware of the importance of improving working conditions for mental health. If you want to stop the problem “public administration has a role to play through incentives. Giving subsidies to companies so that they devote resources to the study of their specificities and the implementation of appropriate actions can be one of the solutions.”

Another type of more aggressive incentive could be obligation to publish the number of employees on sick leave for mental health reasons. “Thus, companies would take great care to do everything possible to ensure that their workers are in the best possible condition.”

The study and all these questions will be presented and debated, on September 1 and 2, during the UIK summer course at the Palace of Miramar, in the Basque Country.

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