Giving Compass' Take:

• The COVID-19 crisis offers the opportunity to rethink how some jobs in the UK function and interrogate how they impact the mental health of working-class individuals. 

• How can donors respond to calls for innovation when it comes to rethinking fragmented jobs and systems? 

• Read about the current and future impacts of COVID-19 on service workers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed job-related health risks leading to fatalities amongst frontline health and social workers and worsened physical and mental health for other essential workers as well as non-essential workers.

In May, the BBC reported that people working in social care in England and Wales were twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as the general working-age population. The number of deaths is likely to be higher now. At the same time, working from home for some workers has brought its own health problems. Numerous reports cite the stress of juggling work and care responsibilities or simply from feeling socially isolated. Recent surveys of more than 3500 adults carried out by the Office for National Statistics conclude that one in five have experienced depression since COVID-19 took hold—compared to one in ten previously. Other reports have highlighted the aches and pains of using chairs and tables designed for other purposes.

Even before the current crisis, the impact of poorly designed jobs on the health of workers was drawing attention. Around six million workers suffer ill-health because of their jobs. Carol Black in her 2008 review Working for a Healthier Tomorrow put this cost to the UK economy at more than £100bn a year (PDF). We would argue that these costs are mostly avoidable. Now may be the time to fundamentally rethink the design of jobs so that they promote good health and lessen poor health and its costs.

In many cases, workplaces are not starting this crisis in a position of strength. RAND Europe research on NHS staff across 35 hospital trusts in 2018 suggested significant health and well-being challenges in many parts of the NHS. The research showed especially high levels of obesity, poor mental health, high levels of work-related stress, and common incidents of violence against staff.

The need to better understand the health risks associated with jobs and to make jobs healthier is not new. Ill-health from work is a long-standing problem affecting about a fifth of UK workers.

Read the full article about rethinking jobs by  Chris Warhurst and Christian Van Stolk at RAND Corporation.