Mental Health Vulnerabilities for Remote Rotational Workers
Remote rotational work can be defined as a method of employing people in remote areas by transporting them temporarily to the work site as opposed to relocating employees and their families permanently. Although remote rotational work is proven to be a lucrative business for many organisations, the unique and sometimes extreme working environments can cause specific vulnerabilities.
In a new, first of its kind study commissioned by the International SOS Foundation, experts synthesised existing literature, carried out key stakeholder interviews, and launched a global survey of remote rotational workers to better understand the psychological impact of remote rotational work. The aim of the research was to raise awareness among stakeholders responsible of the Duty of Care of remote rotational workers and provide them with tactical recommendations to improve their wellbeing.
The research findings were grouped into individual, social and job or organisational impacts. Below we review four key findings that highlight significant vulnerabilities for these employees requiring specific and immediate action by organisations.
- 40% of all respondents experienced suicidal thoughts on rotation some or all the time. Compared to the global average of 4-9%, this highlights the importance of recognizing mental health resilience. Part of this includes implementing an overarching mental health strategy that focuses on prevention, which should include a way to monitoring and evaluate the successful execution of the strategy over time. A hotline service or on-site resources should also be provided to act as a support safety net that will allow staff access to immediate support.
- Nearly 1/3 (29%) met the benchmark for clinical depression whilst on-rotation. 52% felt that their mood declined, and their mental health suffered whilst on rotation. Potential health and safety risks, increased loss time injuries (LTIs) as well as financial and legal implications were highlighted as key issues from the research. Another main finding is that organisations are recommended to review flexible working polices and arrangements, offer on-site training for employees and develop programmes and resources to improve moral and work-life balance.
- Over a third exercised less (35%) and experienced worse-quality sleep (38%) and over a quarter (28%) were less able to eat a nutritious diet whilst on rotation. The knock-on effect of poor physical health contribute to additional health and safety risks on site, reduced productivity as well as increased LTIs. Evaluating existing health strategies and policies in partnership with a medical expert is recommended in order to ensure that necessary support structures are relevant to the local workforce and evidence based. Implementing a site wide wellbeing programme with an onsite wellness centre that equips employees will the resources and know-how to enable them to adopt healthy behaviours will not only result in a healthier workforce but in a sustainable business.
- COVID-19 increased the demands of their job (65%), their stress and anxiety levels (56%) and their working hours (55%). Nearly half were also more concerned for their personal safety (49%). The pandemic has exacerbated potential health and safety risks, challenged productivity levels and increased the risks of accidents on site. Organisations should review their flexible working policies to ensure a suitable work-life balance can be achieved and employees receive the appropriate level of care during these unprecedented times. Ensuring mental health resilience will continue to be challenged as the pandemic remains.
It is pertinent that organisations implement the appropriate preventative measures to insure that their workforce is protected. This includes a mechanism that allows for continual monitoring of employee wellbeing while ensuring confidentiality, implementing a mental health programme that utilises technology such as TeleHealth to ensure all employees can be supported and educate the workforce with compulsory training and resources to drive awareness.
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