The pandemic has put psychological health to the test and companies are beginning to be aware of it

Carla Barros, Fernando Pessoa University is one of the speakers at the 5th Iberian Symposium on Psychosocial Risk, which is being held in Portugal and will feature leading experts and researchers in the field of occupational health.

What are the main lines of your intervention in this Congress? From 1 to 10, what grade would you give occupational prevention in terms of psychosocial risks?

As an occupational psychologist, my line of research is the psychology of occupational health. In this context, my main objective is to demonstrate the relationships between psychosocial risks and workers’ health.

More specifically, and within the scope of this Symposium, the study presented aims to assess the effect of these psychosocial risk factors on the development of musculoskeletal disorders.

The results point to the existence of psychosocial risks such as the pace and intensity of work, the times and the emotional demands that cause and/or aggravate this type of health problem in health professionals.

What is today the main concern of companies regarding the health of their workers? What measures could be implemented to alleviate this scenario?

The concerns of companies are still very much rooted in legal compliance, both in risk assessment and in the health of workers.

The new measures to be implemented must have as a key idea the evaluation of psychosocial risks through the analysis of working conditions, organizational and relational factors that are at the origin of these risks and that can affect the physical, mental and social health of workers. Workers.

In this domain, we must always include a characterization of the organizational context and the use of worker questionnaires. However, the evaluation must be complemented with observation of the employment situation, analysis of work organization and analysis of prevention devices.

Has the pandemic further accelerated the interest of companies in their staff and in guaranteeing a healthy environment and setting?

Although the importance of psychological health problems in the work context is still underestimated, they can have as serious an effect as any other problem. They interfere with our ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, work, enjoy leisure time, and maintain healthy relationships with others.

The pandemic situation we are experiencing has put everyone’s psychological health to the test. Companies are beginning to be aware of this problem. However, there are still very few that guarantee concrete intervention measures to promote the health and well-being of workers.

Do you consider that the crisis has increased the stress and fear of workers to lose their jobs?

The limitations imposed by this psychological pandemic caused an increase in mental disorders, compromising the population, that is, negative emotions gain expression, leading to an increase in mental depression, anxiety and stress in the population.

The companies ended up introducing new forms of work organization that resulted, above all, in an increase in work demands, flexibility without regulation of working hours and difficulties in reconciling work and free time. In a crisis situation in which we live, workers responded to these demands, fearful of losing their jobs, putting their physical and mental health at risk.

Is one of the great challenges of the post-pandemic burnout syndrome? How can companies tackle this problem?

Burnout syndrome, currently considered an occupational disease, has been gradually identified and evaluated in the context of occupational health.

However, companies must develop a psychosocial risk factor assessment system that integrates these requirements with two main objectives. The first is to provide an assessment of causes (psychosocial risk factors) and effects (three dimensions: physical, social, and mental health problems; psychological health and well-being; and subjective well-being). The second objective is to help workers and organizations to develop diagnoses and define intervention plans in the work context.

What are the new trends for occupational health care?

The new trends go through a global, multidimensional and integrating approach, with the effective participation of workers. It consists of promoting a debate between the different actors, different professionals, to design a system suited to the needs and specificities of the work activity. In this sense, new possibilities of reading reality and new opportunities for action in the labor context arise from the evaluations of the workers and on them base the priorities and the meaning that is given to the intervention.

What occupational diseases are currently the focus of attention for experts?

Psychological health will be the great challenge for companies. Highlight the analysis of the less visible effects between work and health, and the subjective experience at work, specifically the effects of psychosocial risks and psychological disorders associated with workplace harassment.

Companies with a better adaptation of labor welfare, have their workers better resisted the vicissitudes experienced in the pandemic?

Companies, with a real concern for the well-being of their workers, have psychosocial risk management at work focused on the collective action of different groups of protagonists, which favors the construction of a common language: an essential starting point for the projection of concrete measures of action and intervention in the psychosocial risks at work today.

Finally, what would you say is the risk map in the near future?

New forms of work organization; telecommuting, flexibility and ways to control the working day, permanent availability, work-family balance.

More information on the V Iberian Symposium on Psychosocial Risk Home page (sirps.org)