On 27 September 2021, the MEP Alliance for Mental Health and the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing took part in a virtual expert meeting aiming at gathering experts’ opinions on the issues that should be addressed by a European Parliament Own Initiative of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs entitled “Mental health in the digital world of work”. The meeting, attended by six experts, was chaired by MEP and Rapporteur Maria Welsh.
On the basis of a series of guiding questions for the discussion, participants highlighted what they saw as the most important challenges affecting mental health in the workplace, particularly following the process of digitalisation and the major changes that have taken place in recent years.
Digitalisation and Covid19 have profoundly changed not only the way we work, but also where and when. The workplace has become mobile and dynamic, blurring the boundaries between work, personal and private spheres. The possibility to be reachable and available at all times has had a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of workers. Communication itself has changed reducing human contact and changing the way stress and psychological disorders are dealt with and shared. Communication online and via email can easily be misunderstood and become an additional source of stress.
Experts also stressed the importance of taking into account inequalities in the world of work. New forms of inequalities have been added to the existing structural ones, such as the possibility or not to have access to jobs or to work remotely. And these inequalities have led to different forms of stress and pressure. It is also interesting to note that the impact of Covid19 on mental health varies according to population group. Young people, for example, have been the most affected.
In light of the challenges that digitalisation and changes in the world of work pose for mental health, experts focused on how a sense of belonging can be created online to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. How can employers and supervisors best look after the mental health of their workers? How can social skills be preserved digitally? This report is intended to be a starting point for future discussions involving stakeholders and experts by experience in the elaboration of the content and the output of the report that will probably be presented to the European Parliament in April.