As per the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health refers to a state of well-being that enables individuals to manage stressful situations, unlock their full potential, learn, and work effectively, and contribute positively to their community's progress.
In this context, well-being is significant in our daily lives as we naturally strive for balance amidst challenges. However, attaining a perfect equilibrium is unrealistic. Japan, for example, has terms like Karoshi (work stress death) and Karoshisatsu (work stress self-destruction) to address this issue.
Work and mental health are deeply intertwined in the workplace, with increasing visibility on the detrimental consequences of neglect, including human, operational, material, and economic costs to companies.
The term 'burnout' was coined in the 70s to describe work-related conditions impacting the efficiency and well-being of workers worldwide. However, it was only in 2019 that the WHO recognised it as a significant health factor. Burnout, as defined by the WHO, is a consequence of unmanaged chronic work stress and includes mental and physical exhaustion, emotional withdrawal, negativity, and reduced professional effectiveness.
According to official figures from the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), Mexican workers faced high fatigue levels from occupational stress even before COVID-19. Over 75% of formally employed workers experienced fatigue, surpassing China (73%) and the United States (59%). These figures highlight insufficient efforts to improve employees' quality of life.
In Mexico, NOM-035 law (published in 2018) addressed the situation in two stages: Stage 1 (2019) required organisations to establish prevention policies, identify risk factors, and share information. Stage 2 (2020) involved analysing risks, evaluating the environment, and implementing control measures with medical examinations and certifications.
During the norm's implementation and verification, COVID-19 emerged, leading to significant changes in the working environment. Many companies relied on the norm to adapt, particularly with remote work, making it a pivotal and ongoing topic of discussion.
Early efforts resulted in a new draft standard, NOM-037 teleworking project, published in July 2022. On March 8th, 2023, the team validated changes for short to medium-term application, including expanded measures for psychosocial risk prevention such as incorporating breaks, rest times, and considering women's specific needs like breastfeeding time.
Mental health, although a concept inherent to human beings, has gained significant importance in recent years.
The percentage of people suffering from work stress in the world is extremely high, and Mexico is the country with the highest incidence, affecting 75% of workers, a figure that could be underestimated due to several factors.
At the global level, important efforts have been made to give priority to these issues, including it being classified in the ICD-10 and recognised by the WHO.
In Mexico, addressing the issue has been reflected in the creation of the Official Mexican Standards 035 and 037.
Despite these regulations, there are several factors that, in practical terms, limit the application of these measures. These include:
Poor organisational culture undermines mental health, prioritising operational efficiency over the well-being of workers. Demands for increased activities or hours without fair compensation, like "put on your shirt," persist today.
Companies resist change, sticking to traditional work models with fixed schedules and commuting requirements. Offering flexibility can save employees money, increase personal time, and improve mental health. Moreover, it benefits companies by reducing absenteeism, accidents, and facility costs.
Remote work has downsides, including isolation that can harm mental health. However, alternative models like hybrid part-time work offer positive outcomes.
The draft standard 037 has a grey area. If a company does not report its remote workers, the guidelines won't apply.
To prevent companies from providing false compliance evidence, we must raise awareness among business owners and leaders about the importance of workplace health and well-being, and the benefits of company policies and programmes.
- It is recommended that organisations are guided by an Occupational Health expert and implement an action plan for the well-being of their workers.
If you require any support with putting similar plans in place within your organisation, our experts can assist you. Get in touch with us now.