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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, as well as 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 implementation of target agreements.

The outlined developments offer opportunities for higher qualified, more varied and more meaningful tasks. For many employees, new prospects for professional development are opening up. Extended scopes of decision making and greater personal responsibility are considered important health-promoting resources. The downsides of change, on the other hand, relate to job insecurity and possible overload. In representative surveys, employees particularly report on high time and performance pressure as well as disruptions and interruptions of work that are perceived as stressful.

Psychological strain 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 drops in performance.

Against this background, the unit's work currently focuses on the following areas:

Research and development

  • Analysis and processing of data on the distribution and development of psychosocial workload.
  • Research on selected workload constellations, taking into account new developments in the world of work (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 of mental workload 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".


WissOR'in Gisa Junghanns

Head of Unit 3.5 Mental Workload

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