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1.2 million for research into the effects of digitised work on mental health

2 May 2023
VU Amsterdam professors Marit Sijbrandij (Clinical Psychology) and Mark van Vugt (Organisational Psychology) have received a grant within the EU/Horizon programme of 1.2 million euros to study the effects of the digitised work environment on the mental health of employees, and to increase mental resilience.

The research is part of the study 'I'm At Work' in Europe on work and mental health. Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety affect half of the workforce in Europe and lead to significant financial costs due to loss of productivity.

Sijbrandij: "In the Netherlands, about 20% of employees have to deal with mental health problems, ranging from stress and burnout to depression and anxiety disorders. This not only has a negative impact on the employee involved but can also lead to higher absenteeism rates and reduced productivity in the workplace."

Disadvantages digitization 
The Netherlands is one of the most digitized countries in Europe in terms of working environment and remote working has become increasingly popular during the corona crisis. In addition to the advantages in terms of flexibility, there may also be disadvantages associated with remote working, in particular reduced social engagement, isolation, digital stress and exhaustion that can lead to mental health problems.

Van Vugt: 'This is perhaps most noticeable in SMEs (small and medium enterprises) that do not always have sufficient resources and expertise to support the digital transition. This 5-year research project looks at the effectiveness of two types of interventions within SMEs in the Netherlands. First of all, a WHO (World Health Organization) certified leadership training is implemented to increase the knowledge and competencies of managers in recognizing and dealing with mental complaints of employees. Secondly, the effectiveness of a digital stress management program for employees is being investigated."

The project is a collaboration between researchers from Clinical Psychology (Marit Sijbrandij, and Anke Witteveen) and Organizational Psychology/Amsterdam Leadership Lab (Mark van Vugt and Sanne Feenstra) from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) and is part of a European consortium grant (ADVANCE) of more than 9 million euros for prevention research in the field of mental health in vulnerable populations in the EU.