Well-Being Mental Health

WHO releases new guidelines for mental health in the workplace

The report talks about interventions for organizations, managers and workers.
illustration of woman sitting, half yoga other half balancing laptop and work

Story at a glance

  • According to the WHO, 15 percent of working age adults have a mental disorder at any given time.

  • The agency has released new guidelines for mental health at work, with evidence-based recommendations for organizations and individuals.

  • The report also included recommendations for returning to work after a mental health related absence.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) provides guidelines for mental health at work. According to the agency, 15 percent of working-age adults have a mental disorder at any point in time. 

The goal of the report is to provide “evidence-based recommendations to promote mental health, prevent mental health conditions, and enable people living with mental health conditions to participate and thrive in work,” according to the agency’s website. 

The types of recommendations are broken down by types of interventions at the organizational level, recommendations for training managers, recommendations for training workers and recommendations for individual interventions. 

Organizational interventions can be broken down by universal organization interventions, organizational interventions for health, humanitarian and emergency workers and organizational interventions for workers with mental health conditions. 

The WHO writes that universal organization interventions should address psychosocial safety in the workplace. Risks to mental health at work can be broken into categories that include work content/task design, workload and pace, work schedule and organizational culture and function. For example, work content/task related issues may include “lack of variety or short work cycles, fragmented or meaningless work, under-use of skills, high uncertainty, continuous exposure to people through work.” 

A recommendation in the report for organizational intervention: 

“Organizational interventions that address psychosocial risk factors, including interventions involving participatory approaches, may be considered for workers to reduce emotional distress and improve work-related outcomes. Culturally and contextually sensitive planning and delivery of interventions is required. Some sociodemographic groups may be adversely and differentially affected by psychosocial risk factors more than others are; assessment and planning which takes account of the diversity of a workforce would identify such differences.” 

The WHO also recommends training managers to support their workers’ mental health and that this training should improve managers’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors for mental health and to improve workers’ help-seeking behaviors. 

For all recommendations, the WHO discusses evidence and rationale, as well as the process from evidence to decision. 

Other sections include recommendations for returning to work after absence associated with mental health conditions, recommendations for gaining employment for people living with mental health conditions and information on screening programs. 

The summary of the report is available in other languages at the WHO website.