Worker adaptation behaviours and mental health impacts in Irish workplaces arising from COVID-19 – observations of OSH professionals
17T16:52:26Z February 2022
Introduction: Workers quickly adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with updated work arrangements, control measures and policies. Understanding adaptation difficulties/fatigue and mental health issues among workers is crucial for OSH professionals to plan for future emergencies. Materials and Methods: As part of a larger COVID-19 workplace study, 16 two-hour focus groups (4-6 participants each) were conducted with OSH professionals (n=60) in Ireland, covering four predetermined themes (organisational preparedness; organisational impacts; worker adaptation behaviour; and the future of OSH post-pandemic). Thematic analysis was conducted using Nvivo. Results: OSH professionals observed many workers rapidly adapted and became involved in organisational COVID-19 outbreak prevention and long-term adaptation, in contrast to some workers that exhibited mental health problems as they struggled to adapt. Adaptation fatigue was observed when staff were sent home to work due to a range of factors: 1) isolation at home 2) no boundary between work and life; and 3) inability to disconnect from negative media coverage. The situation can be alleviated by 1) increasing informal communication to cope with isolation; 2) Employee Assistance Programmes; and 3) additional consultation regarding their COVID-19 concerns. Conclusion: Most Irish workplaces focused more on employees’ physical safety rather than their mental wellbeing. The experiences shared by OSH professionals in this study illustrate their agility and ability to apply their risk management and control skills to any unanticipated public/occupational health crisis that arises.
Science Foundation Ireland
Type of Material
Safety and Health at Work
Status of Item
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License