Technological development has changed the type of work that exists in our society. The number of professionals dedicated to traditional trades such as charcoal making or knife sharpening is decreasing, while the number of workers specializing in the field of computing (information technology in Spanish), science or telecommunications, to name a few examples, is increasing. . With this change, the relationship between work and the environment, between workers and their hierarchy, between the employees themselves (if they telecommute for example) but also the professional risks related to the health of employees are modified.
In this sense, Sarah O’Connor, a journalist specializing in the world of work, published an article in the Financial Times newspaper in which she analyzed the current state of occupational health in the United Kingdom. Its findings provide a better understanding of the occupational health situation in Spain.
Less physical damage but more mental damage. O’Connor’s article, “What If Work Makes Us Sick?” (“And if work made us sick?”), recalls that currently, in general, work has become a less harmful activity on the physical level, but more harmful on the psychological level. The data is clear: in 2003, more than 2,000 cases of physical problems and nearly 1,600 of depressive or stress disorders were detected in the UK; by 2021, cases of physical problems had decreased, standing at over 1,400, while depressive or stress symptoms exceeded 2,600.
The pandemic has affected mental health. The author points out that while the trend of cases due to stress has been on the rise for almost a decade, the pandemic has caused it to increase such that it is a problem that currently affects “half of all stress-related ailments. ” in the United Kingdom. It is in fact a problem that has affected the whole world, both the working and inactive population in many countries, since, according to the WHO, the pandemic has increased the prevalence of the disease by 25% anxiety and depression.
The organization highlighted as causes of stress, in addition to anxiety and depression, the personal fear of being infected, suffering or dying, or that the same could happen to family members and loved ones. . In fact, among health workers, extreme fatigue was one of the “top triggers for suicidal thoughts”.
More work and more speed. On the other hand, O’Connel points to work intensification as one of the factors that increase work stress. According to the SAGE Journal portal and the Resolution Foundation, the percentage of employees in the UK who say they work hard rose from 30% in 1992 to 46% in 2017. Additionally, over the same period, the percentage of employees who say they work hard working to very short delivery times increased from 53% to 60% and the number of employees declaring that they work at a very fast pace increased from 23% to 45%. This increases stress at work, a problem from which our country also suffers.
More tension in our country. The latest Working Conditions and Health Survey indicates that the percentage of workers reporting being in a “high-strain” work situation – having to comply with a workload greater than the time available for it – rose from 22.3% in 2016 to 45.8. % in 2021.
Losses rise in Spain. This is why, according to the ‘Study on the evolution of mental and behavioral disorders in temporary incapacity’ carried out by Fremap, in 2022 there was an increase of 17.36% in sick leave for which the reason is a mental illness. . In addition, sick leave currently has an average duration of 97.6 days, i.e. 45% more than in 2015.
The solution, better conditions. In his article, O’Connor reproduces the responses of a night casino employee. The employee claims that in the past the company tried to give them facilities, such as a free dinner, a taxi home and a Christmas bonus, but now it does not. Since then, many people leave “because they are depressed”.
Here is the key. Good working conditions that preserve the health of employees are essential to minimize any risk, physical or psychological, and to solve any problem in the event of the worker’s illness.
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