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Project "Mental Health in the Working World"

Determining the current state of scientific evidence

The BAuA project "Mental Health in the Working World", which began in early 2014, was completed in May 2017 with the submission of its final report. The goal of the research project was to advance the level of knowledge surrounding working conditions relating to mental health in the world of work, to assess the transferability of the available knowledge to changing working conditions, and to identify knowledge gaps relating to mental stress factors, stress constellations and their impact on the individual. In addition, the available conceptual knowledge and the existing research deficits were also identified.

In the "Mental Health in the Working World" project, scoping reviews were also prepared for more than 20 working conditions factors, which were assigned to four subject areas: "work tasks", "leadership and organisation", "working time" and "technical factors".

"Work tasks" subject area

  • Remit of tasks in the workplace
  • Scope for action and decision making, variability of tasks
  • Completeness
  • Intensity of work
  • Irritations and interruptions
  • Emotional work
  • Traumatic stresses

"Leadership and organisation" subject area

  • Leadership
  • Social relationships
  • Feedback
  • Fairness and reward
  • Atypical employment
  • Job insecurity

"Working time" subject area

  • Atypical working time
  • Breaks
  • Detachment
  • Mobility
  • Work-related accessibility
  • Work-life balance

"Technical factors" subject area

  • Noise
  • Lighting
  • Climate
  • Human-machine interaction
  • Human-computer interaction

"Conceptual approaches" interdisciplinary topic

  • Organisational resilience

The project was divided into three phases.

Phase 1 - Knowledge preparation

In this phase, scoping reviews were compiled on the relationship between working condition factors and physical health. These describe the available level of knowledge. The compilation of the scoping reviews was also oriented to a common set of guidelines.

Phase 2 - Deepening the knowledge

In this phase, the BAuA invited scientists to expert meetings and also provided comments on the scoping reviews. At the expert meetings, cross-cutting questions took centre stage, among others, on the interdependencies and research gaps, on the conceptual options, and on the relevance of the topics in the changing world of work. The pointers from the comments and expert meetings were subsequently used by the BAuA in order to revise the scoping reviews.

Phase 3 - Applying the knowledge

In the third phase, the findings were discussed with actors from the worlds of occupational safety and politics. The project was concluded with a report in which the results were presented and recommendations were made regarding occupational safety, health management and related areas of policy.

The final report was presented on 5th May 2017 at a shared event with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB). It provides the basis for the dialogue process behind “Mental Health in the Working World”.

Providing scientific support, and in its role as Chair of the National Conference for Occupational Safety (NAK), the BAuA is participating in the dialogue process which is overseen by BMAS, the DGB and the BDA. This aims to support the organisational implementation of appropriate measures for the supporting and strengthening of mental health. On this basis, an intensive discussion of the findings of the study should take place, conclusions should be drawn on the conceptualisation of a world of work in which occupational health is prioritised, and specific, measurable goals should be agreed for future implementation.

The dialogue process is accompanied by a steering committee, to which decision makers in the sector associations and individual trade unions are party. Additional conceptual partners for ensuring mental health in the world of work (in particular, accident insurers and other social insurance firms) will also be included.