H-WORK: happy new year!

by Luca Pietrantoni, project coordinator, UNIBO


Happy new year!

The year 2020 has been really unique. The Covid-19 crisis raised awareness about our health and highlighted the need for a healthy and safe working environment. Indeed, this unfortunate year has triggered a tremendous response from European governments with a series of significant actions to support their economies, companies in the various sectors affected by the pandemic, and individual citizens.

As European Commissioner Stella Kryakides mentioned, the harmful effects of the pandemic on the mental health of all of us need to be addressed. Although we cannot yet assess the risk, we know that the long-term impacts will be significant. Impacts generally fall into three categories: directly caused by the pandemic, such as anxiety or fears; indirectly triggered by government measures implemented, such as isolation and social distancing; and indirectly caused by socio-economic effects and fallout, such as the effects of being forced to accept unemployment benefits for months at a time. Stressors such as pandemic-related threats and trauma, such as viral exposure, witnessing deaths, limited mobility and economic loss, are all factors that may increase the risk of mental disorders. We also need to understand the economic impact of mental health costs that is mainly due to the high number of mental health cases among the working-age population.

In the pre-pandemic world, the impact of mental health in the EU was already relevant, affecting at least 1 in 6 individuals diagnosed with a mental health problem and costing 4% of the EU’s total GDP. It is easy to expect that the need for support and advocacy for promoting mental health and psychosocial wellbeing will increase substantially in the coming months.

Mental health in the workplace will become a growing priority at national and international level. Organizations will seek support to assist their employees and management with tools and intervention methodologies to promote resilience and health.  Most importantly, given the pandemic’s impact, the use of digital solutions will be a key aspect. According to PitchBook, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly boosted investment in mental health technology start-ups. Ten years ago, investment in mental health technologies was worth €5 million, last year it reached the €1.3 billion mark.

Digitalization offers novel opportunities and challenges but to protect employees and employers, we need to ensure that all people at risk can have access to these services. The exponential incorporation of technology into our daily lives has induced extensive alterations in the way we communicate and work.

I am grateful to all H-WORK partner for their great job in the theoretical and methodological preparation. We successfully designed the H-WORK Protocols, conducted interviews with managers and supervisors, employee representatives and employees themselves. Now the partners are ready to undertake actions at the various intervention sites that will last throughout 2021. We will start at the end of January with the baseline data collection, which sets the starting point from which we will monitor our interventions’ effectiveness.  

The old year has been heavy and never before we are looking to the future with great expectancy, hope, eager to see what we will achieve in 2021!

Happy New Year and good work to all!

prof. Luca Pietrantoni