Mental health problems and stress-related disorders are a major health concern and the biggest overall cause of early death, according to the World Health Organization, which organizes World Health Day each year. Resulting from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors, depression is often triggered by adverse life events such as unemployment, bereavement or psychological trauma. It can be debilitating for the affected person, who functions poorly at work, at school and in the family.
Some of the root causes of depression are related to living and working conditions. For example, the working environment is a powerful determinant of health and has a significant impact on the employee’s mood. In today’s context of economic globalization, the occupational environment is delivering increasing mental stress, which can lead to job dissatisfaction, reduced work performance, ill health and depression.
Towards a happier workplace
To help businesses and experts design workplaces that encourage employee satisfaction and well-being, ISO has developed several International Standards addressing the issues of ergonomics in the design of work systems.
For example, ISO 6385, Ergonomic principles in the design of work systems, provides core ergonomic principles to improve, (re)design and modify working situations to make the workplace safer, more comfortable and more productive. It covers a wide variety of occupations such as machine operators, assembly line workers, car/lorry drivers, airport personnel, healthcare professionals, teaching staff as well as office workers and mobile workers on laptops.
Another example, ISO 10075, Ergonomic principles related to mental workload, provides system design guidelines specifically intended to prevent mental overload. Mental stress can result from many different and interacting factors including the requirements of the task, the physical conditions of the job, social and organizational factors or societal factors. The idea behind the ISO 10075 series of standards is to help design systems that prevent mental strain.
Another standard, ISO 27500, describes the values and beliefs that make an organization human-centred, the significant business benefits that can be achieved, and explains the risks for the organization of not being human-centred. It provides recommendations for the policies that executive board members need to implement to achieve this. It sets out high-level human-centred principles for executive board members to endorse in order to optimize performance, minimize risks to organizations and individuals, maximize well-being in their organization, and enhance their relationships with the customers.
Developed by technical committee ISO/TC 159, Ergonomics, subcommittee 1, General ergonomics principles, whose secretariat is held by DIN, the ISO member for Germany, these standards are destined to help designers apply the latest knowledge in work systems and work equipment in a human-centred way, for a more productive workplace.
Implementing a strong occupational health and safety management system is also another way organizations reduce accidents and ill health. ISO is also developing an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system standard, ISO 45001, which is intended to enable organizations to manage their OH&S risks and improve their OH&S performance. The implementation of an OH&S management system is a strategic decision for an organization that can be used to support its sustainability initiatives, ensuring people are safer and healthier and increase profitability at the same time.