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Unit 3.5 Mental Workload

Facing the changing world of work, psychosocial workload is gaining in relevance. Trends playing a central role in this context are globalisation and increasing competitive pressure, the tertiarisation and computerisation of our society, and the continuing acceleration of manufacturing, service and communication processes.

As a result, work activities are becoming more and more complex. The amount of tasks and information to be handled is growing. In addition, employees are increasingly required to successfully organise their communication and cooperation in an ever more interconnected world of work. At the same time, there is a growing need for flexibility and mobility. Forms of work control are also changing, for example through increasing management by objectives.

The developments outlined here offer opportunities for creating higher qualified, more varied and meaningful tasks. For many employees, they open up new opportunities for professional development. Extended decision latitude and greater personal responsibility are considered as important resources that contribute to maintaining health. The downsides of change, on the other hand, relate to job insecurity and possible overload. In representative surveys, employees report in particular high time and performance pressure as well as disruptions and interruptions of work that are perceived as stressful.

Psychosocial workload can contribute to both mental disorders and physical illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders or cardiovascular diseases. Other widespread consequences include a loss of motivation, job dissatisfaction and a drop in performance.

Against this background, the work group currently focuses on the following areas:

Research and development

  • Analysis of data on the distribution and development of psychosocial workload.
  • Research on selected workload constellations, taking into account new developments in working life (time and performance pressure as well as the design of breaks and recovery for knowledge and service work).
  • Investigation of procedures and methods for the assessment and management of psychosocial risks in the workplace.

Policy advice

  • Active participation in expert bodies and working groups on a national and international level.
  • Expert representation of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy's (GDA) work programme group "Protection and strengthening of health in the case of psychosocial risks at work".


Dr Martina Morschhäuser

Head of Unit 3.5 Mental Workload

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