Lucrative remote rotational work comes at a cost

A new study highlights evidence of the high level of clinical depression and poor physical health of the remote rotational workforce.

Whether on or offshore, the work and lifestyle of a remote rotational worker may be lucrative, but it comes at a cost, according to research conducted by the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work. The joint report reveals a high instance of suicidal thoughts among this group, as the majority of workers are found to have worse mental health than the norm. Almost a quarter of the workers surveyed experienced emotional exhaustion on a weekly basis; around half experienced higher stress levels while on rotation and over half were not engaged in their work.

At the same time, the study found that the majority of respondents felt that their health and safety was important to their employers and considered a priority. They report a strong sense of community and support among co-workers and from managers. Many also felt that they could share their mental health concerns with colleagues.

Dr Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, medical director wellness and NCDs, International SOS, says there is an urgent need for increased focus, understanding and strategies to mitigate mental ill health and promote better metal health of the remote rotational workforce.

“This is highlighted in our survey, which uncovers significantly high levels of critical mental ill health issues, including suicidal thoughts and depression. The COVID-19 environment has also added increased stress on this already pressured working arrangement.

“Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. Organisations and individuals with a Duty of Care to their remote rotational workers should have visibility and a plan of support for their workforce encompassing both.”

Key study findings (Source: Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Workforce, International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work)

• 40% of all respondents experienced suicidal thoughts on rotation some or all the time (compared with an average of 4 to 9%). One in five are feeling suicidal all or most of the time.
• 29% met the benchmark for clinical depression whilst on rotation.
• 52% reported a decline in mood, and their mental health suffered whilst on rotation.
• 62% had worse mental health than would be the norm in a population. While off rotation, this remains at a high of 31% experiencing lower mental health than the general population.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

• 65% experienced increased job demands
• 56% increased working hours stress, anxiety
• 49% concerned for personal safety
• One third became increasingly lonely
• 23% had more negative physical symptoms (such as headaches and stomach issues)

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