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Workers on rotation profoundly impacted by pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the mental health of workers on rotation as 40% said they have experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, one in five rotational workers said they feel suicidal most of the time and 29% met the benchmark for clinical depression while on rotation.

Rotational workers, who have to rotate their shifts according to a set schedule, are usually employed in industries such as maritime, wind, mining, oil and gas, and construction. 

Doctors have urged HR teams to take action and support remote rotational workers, due to the findings from Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Workforce, a new report by the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work. 

Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, medical director for Non-Communicable Diseases and Workplace Wellness at International SOS, said organisations, HR teams and managers with a duty of care for remote rotational workers need to be acutely aware of high impact on mental health this kind of working can have.

He told HR magazine: “The social isolation, hard working conditions, and long hours can make rotational work difficult to manage, stressful, and have a higher likelihood to lead to burnout than other modes of working.

“An HR team must have an understanding of their own workforce and should carry out a survey of their remote rotational workers to provide insight into what is having an impact on stress levels, positively and negatively.”

Rodriguez-Fernandez said the survey should take into consideration, how employees feel about being on rotation in comparison with when they are off rotation.

“It should also ask workers how they feel about the support mechanisms in place, and from this policies and processes can be reviewed and implemented,” he said.

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Nearly two-thirds (65%) of rotational workers said they experienced an increase in work since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Worryingly, the report found 23% of the remote rotational workers surveyed said they received no psychological support from their employers.

Rodriguez-Fernandez said as with any working environment, creating an organisational openness around mental health is also key.

He said: “Demonstrating to the workforce that mental health and wellbeing, including the support they can expect from their employer and advice on what they can do to promote their own mental resilience, helps to foster open dialogue. 

“More tactical actions include the implementation of training and support, as well as manager training so that they can advise employees, or even identify when an employee may need support.”