Mental health in the digital world of work

A Seminar on "Mental health in the digital world of work" was held on February 3 and 4, 2022 in Seville, Spain, organised by CEAT (Spanish Centre for Workers' Affairs), in cooperation with EZA and financed by the European Union.


The opening session began at 12.30 p.m. with the welcome speech of Mr. DAVID CERVERA, the president of CEAT, who pointed out the opportunity of this seminar to reflect on mental health at work, in the current situation: with new professions and new pathologies.  new pathologies, new problems that we will have to face but also new challenges to overcome. Changes in the work environment are needed to deal with dangers to psychosocial well-being where legislation facilitates the management of well-being at work and psychosocial risks are effectively prevented from the isolation generated by the digital world. He pointed out that they need changes in the work environment to deal with dangers to psychosocial well-being, where legislation facilitates the management of well-being at work, and psychosocial risks are effectively prevented, and the isolation generated by the digital world.

Mrs. MARÍA REINA, President of FIDESTRA and Vice President of EZA, pointed out in her speech that the mental health of workers, when related to the context of the COVID 19 pandemic, has caused an enormous increase in stress for workers, with limited access to health-related services and the stress associated with the use of new technologies, changes in work schedules and teleworking.

Dr. JAVIER MORILLAS, Professor of Economics at the San Pablo CEU University, highlighted the contribution of EZA and CEAT, with this Seminar, to the campaigns of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), recalling the seminar organised in Bilbao in 2021, amid the limitations of the pandemic. This seminar addressed the issue of workers' mental health in the context of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, which has led to a huge increase in stress factors for workers such as financial insecurity, fear of unemployment, access limited to health-related services, the stress associated with the use of new and still unknown technologies, changes in work schedules and the still inadequate organisation of work and teleworking.


D. JAIME GÓMEZ GONZÁLEZ, Director of the Mental Health Unit, Hospital Virgen Macarena (Seville) in the presentation "Psychosocial well-being in the new strategic framework of the EU in terms of health and safety at work 2021-2027", addressed risk factors for mental disorders, the current state of the impact of the work environment on mental health, psychosocial risks and stress at work, emerging risks derived from digitisation in the work environment, and its prevention. He asked to identify the magnitude and impact that mental disorders together constitute the most frequent cause of disease burden in Europe, ahead of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. 


Mrs SARAH COPSEY, Project Manager at the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) presented the paper "Psychosocial risks and digitisation at work". She first pointed out that EU-OSHA is concerned with making European workplaces safer, healthier, and more productive for the benefit of companies, employees, and administrations, promoting a culture of risk prevention to improve conditions of work in Europe. She stressed that digital technologies undoubtedly represent an emerging problem for occupational health and safety, providing data from the survey commissioned by EUOSHA in order to gather information on the state of occupational health and safety, subsequently to the pandemic.

Mrs MARÍA JOSÉ RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Professor of Labour Law and Social Security at the University of Seville, presented the paper "The new strategic framework of the EU on occupational health and safety 2021-2027" pointing out that changes are needed in the work environment to address threats to psychosocial well-being. The creation of intermediation services at the local or regional level for psychosocial risks would be required to offer advice and technical support to workers and companies, micro-enterprises, and SMEs on the prevention of psychosocial risks and psychosocial conflicts in the workplace, as well as to disseminate information on psychosocial risks and their prevention.


D. ANTONIO BRANDÃO, from CFTL/BASE-FUT, Portugal, visited the different seminars that have been held in Europe since 2008, addressing occupational health and safety issues, also including the field of digitisation; and where mental health issues have been treated to a lesser extent. He cited a survey of his country, with a worrying result, which reflects great dissatisfaction among workers, who are thinking more about retiring. Situation that worsened due to the pandemic.

Mrs ANETA SZCZYKUTOWICZ, from Europejski Dom Spotkań - Fundacja Nowy Staw, Poland, provided several recommendations: free schedules, non-rigidity, recognition, and respect for the worker; and that companies collaborate with psychologists to help workers. She considers that the technological change that we are experiencing has very positive aspects (mechanisation), but it also brings other negative aspects, which affect the mental health of people and workers.

Mrs MARA ERDELJ, from RS BOFOS, Serbia, focused her contribution on the positive human being, on the importance of human and Christian values. She closed her intervention with the example of a workshop / therapy, to preserve the child that we have within us. And her final message: we must be optimistic and be happy.

Mr. SILVIU ISPAS TRAÍAN, from IFES Romania, told us about a report on mental health, in his country, with more than half a million mental patients, of which 70% are caused by work. He also referred to young university students, with fifty thousand young people who, at the age of 33, suffer from stress due to overwork.

Mrs HELLE STENBRO, from Krifa (Kristelig Fagbevægelse), Denmark, spoke about the imbalances in people's available time, in working life, and in private life. Around 8% of the Danish population suffers from depression and it is estimated that 25% of all consultations with a general practitioner are related to mental health. The report found that both general health and mental health are strongly associated with happiness ratings, with unemployment, income and sociability also playing a role.

Mr. GUGLIELMO BORRI, from SIAS-MCL in Italy, spoke about the transformation at work with the advent of artificial intelligence, with advances in productivity and performance, and the impact of this change, which brings new jobs and new risks. Mental fatigue is not only a health problem, it also affects performance and the fact that the worker makes mistakes. Solutions to these problems must be addressed at the national level.

Mrs MARÍA REINA, from FIDESTRA Portugal, spoke about mental health in teleworking and new work models. 6.2% of sick leave in Portugal are due to mental health problems. She tells us about teleworking that it exerts great pressure, which leads to stress for workers; an important issue that we need to address now.


Ms. LILI GRANDIEK from the CNV Vakmensen trade union in the Netherlands, highlighted in her speech that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on the mental health of young people, 30 to 40% of young people have symptoms of depression, more than double the average of the population. Depression doubled in northern European countries, between 20-25% of young people had seriously considered suicide during the pandemic, and financial uncertainty and job insecurity are the greatest risks for mental health. He pointed out that a change of mentality is necessary, moving from pessimism to the opportunities offered by the digital world in training and lifelong learning, pointing out above all the importance of human contact for our well-being and opportunities.

Mrs SILVIA MARCO UTRILLA of the USO trade union pointed out that the European Union includes in its Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights the protection of the safety and health of workers; the right to a healthy and safe workplace is reflected in principle 10 of the European Pillar of Social Rights and is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To the COVID-19 pandemic, we must add another that is spreading silently and worryingly: mental health problems. The management of psychosocial risks must begin by including the pathologies derived from psychosocial risks in the list of occupational diseases. A regulation is necessary that recognises these contingencies in the health of workers.


The closing ceremony was presided by Mr. JUAN IGNACIO ZOIDO ÁLVAREZ, MEP, who highlighted the continued work of CEAT, socially committed to defending workers. He highlighted the opportunity to address the issue of mental health in the digital world, as the pandemic has shed light on the widespread mental health crisis across Europe. Technological development has modified the type of work existing in our society and working conditions are necessary to protect the health of workers.

D. PERGIORGIO SCIACQUA highlighted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health of workers has been affected by disruptions in many services, and the increase in stress related to technology, changes in working hours, the inadequate organisation of work and teleworking. In this context, social dialogue has been an important and beneficial instrument for health and safety at work.

D. DAVID CERVERA OLIVARES thanked the participants for their active participation and the speakers for their interventions with their high academic level and their contributions. Dr. JAVIER MORILLAS highlighted that this seminar aims to make a thematic contribution to the campaign of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), "Safe and healthy work in the digital age", which will be launched in 2023 and will run for three years until autumn 2025. The aim of the campaign will be to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities posed by the ongoing digitisation of the world of work for safety and health at work.