Workplace Prevention

All health-related activities come together in workplace prevention, including occupational safety and health (OSH), return-to-work (RTW) management, and workplace health promotion measures. Engagement with issues around mental health in the world of work can be a starting point for sustainable workplace prevention.

Group of people having a meeting
© Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

As a result of digitalisation, demographic change, and climate change, the world of work is currently going through a profound social/ecological transformation. Networked work processes, flexible work structures, complex interaction requirements, and changing values mean work is making new demands on the people who do it.

These changes require leaders and employees to take decisions more autonomously, practise a higher degree of self-management, and display additional flexibility and creativity as they go about their jobs.

This is being accompanied by rises in the numbers of days of incapacity for work and people retiring on reduced earning capacity pensions due to mental illness.

Engagement with mental health in the world of work can open doors to the development of sustainable workplace prevention activities. Such prevention work should not revolve exclusively around the harmful aspects of work that function as stressors, but also place just as much emphasis on the beneficial aspects that function as resources - the dynamic interactions between work, the psyche, and social relationships for instance.

In addition, it is vital to build up networked structures dedicated to detecting mental overload and crises among employees as early as possible and supporting action to deal with them.

The aim is to prevent employees suffering from incapacity for work if at all possible and, where this has unfortunately happened, to ensure they return sustainably to the workplace. This demands the interplay of various approaches:

  • the human-centred management of tasks and working times
  • appropriate action from leaders and teams in response to the problems they encounter
  • personal counselling and support services
  • closer cooperation with the health system

The healthy management of work requirements and relationships and the integration of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention within the organisation are of central salience.

The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) is conducting intervention studies on these issues that are examining the integration of different kinds of provision at (and above) the level of the individual organisation:

  • the consortium project Early Intervention at the Workplace (Frühe Intervention am Arbeitsplatz, FRIAA)
  • the cooperative project Intensified Return to Work (RTW) aftercare in psychiatric outpatient clinics situated in care clinics (Intensivierte Return to Work Nachsorge in psychiatrischen Institutsambulanzen von Versorgungskliniken, RTW-PIA)

In large and medium-sized enterprises, the integration of different forms of prevention can be ensured by their organisational health management systems. When it comes to small and micro enterprises, structures for the provision of services have to be developed above the organisational level.

Statutorily required OSH measures represent a good basis on which to initiate prevention activities. Key roles are played by risk assessment and the measures that follow from it. Return-to-work management can also be used as a starting point for action. Occupational physicians, OSH specialists, and the health insurance funds are among the actors that support and advise organisations establishing workplace health management systems and health promotion schemes in Germany.

Employees should be involved in these processes, for example through their organisation’s occupational safety and health committee, health circles, the bodies that represent workers’ interests, and participative research methods.

Research Projects

Project numberF 2525 StatusOngoing Project Formative qualitative evaluation of an early intervention at the workplace (FRIAA) for employees with common mental disorders

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2516 StatusCompleted Project Stigmatization associated with SARS-CoV-2 in the occupational setting: Summary of the state of knowledge and interview study

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Research completed

Project numberF 2459 StatusOngoing Project Gradual Return to Work (G-RTW): Current implementation and potentials for further improvement

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2367 StatusCompleted Project Scoping Review on determinants for a successful return-to-work and systematic overview on interventions to facilitate return to work among employees with mental disorders

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Research completed

Project numberF 2354 StatusCompleted Project Interventions to support return-to-work for patients with coronary heart disease

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Research completed

Project numberF 2414 StatusCompleted Project Returning to work after mental health problems: cooperation and alliances between healthcare institutions and companies in the return to work process

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Research completed

Project numberF 2319 StatusCompleted Project Communicative Action as a factor in the return-to-work-process from the perspective of return-to-work coordinators - A qualitative study for development of a best practice guide

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Research completed

Publications

Search results

Evaluating a multimodal, clinical and work-directed intervention (RTW-PIA) to support sustainable return to work among employees with mental disorders: study protocol of a multicentre, randomised controlled trial

Essay 2023

Background Mental disorders (MDs) are one of the leading causes for workforce sickness absence and disability worldwide. The …

To the Publication

Prevalence of Operational Integration Management: Are Health Orientation and Social Resources More Critical Than Company Size? Results of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey

Essay 2023

Aims: The aim of the present study was to examine whether the prevalence of the operational integration management programme in …

To the Publication

Return to work after a mental crisis: the four-phase model of reintegration

Essay 2023

The complete article can be purchased in German at the website of the Journal "Arbeitsmedizin, Sozialmedizin, Umweltmedizin", …

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Workplace health promotion measures - Who gets an offer, who participates?

baua: Facts 2023

Changes in the world of work keep presenting companies and employees with new and sometimes stressful challenges. Workplace …

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Employees Receiving Inpatient Treatment for Common Mental Disorders in Germany: Factors Associated with Time to First and Full Return to Work

Essay 2022

Purpose: In Germany, return to work (RTW) after inpatient treatment for common mental disorders (CMDs) is a complex process at …

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The current practice of gradual return to work in Germany: a qualitative study protocol

Essay 2022

Background: The increase in working age and long-term illnesses is a challenge for society to maintain the health of employees …

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Early intervention, treatment and rehabilitation of employees with common mental disorders by using psychotherapeutic consultation at work: study protocol of a randomised controlled multicentre trial (friaa project)

Essay 2021

Background: Common mental disorders are one of the leading causes for sickness absence and early retirement due to reduced …

To the Publication

Implementation of operational integration management (BEM) - There is still a need to catch up

baua: Facts 2021

Although the statutory regulation on BEM has been in place since 2004, the present analysis of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment …

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Managing RTW Together: Returning to Work after Mental Crises

baua: Guidance 2021

The proportion of workers on sick leave due to mental illnesses such as depression, adjustment disorders, and anxiety has risen …

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Return to work after sickness absence due to common mental disorders from the employees' perspective

Report 2021

Background: Return to Work (RTW), especially after common mental disorders, is a complex process that has received little …

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