October 6, 2022

WHO, ILO Push for Policies to Address Mental Health Issues at Work

The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization are jointly calling on employers and governments to address mental health concerns in the working population. Noting that depression and anxiety account for an estimated 12 billion workdays lost each year, the two organizations recommend that employers incorporate the mitigation of psychosocial risks as an essential element of their occupational health and safety management system.

This recommendation appears in a “policy brief” that offers examples of interventions that organizations can use to address several potential psychosocial risks. For example, in organizations where jobs lack variety or where workers feel their skills are underused, employers can rotate tasks among workers or adopt participatory approaches to job design. For jobs that involve long, inflexible hours or shift work, employers can implement flexible working arrangements, planned breaks, and participatory approaches to scheduling. Other psychosocial risks addressed in the document include unsafe equipment, a discriminatory or abusive culture, social or physical isolation, harassment, job insecurity, and a punitive approach to sickness or absences.

The document also recommends mental health training for both managers and workers, noting that building awareness of mental health is necessary to reduce stigma against people with mental health conditions. To support workers with mental health conditions, organizations give them flexible hours or extra time to complete tasks, or develop return-to-work programs and vocational support initiatives.

“Mental Health at Work: Policy Brief” can be downloaded as a PDF and is a companion document to the WHO publication “World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All.” More information is available from the ILO website.

Related: Read “Mental Health in the Workplace: Tips for Supporting Workers’ Mental Well-Being” in the October 2021 Synergist.