Evidence-based interventions for promotion of mental and physical health in changing working environments (post-pandemic workplaces)
This topic aims at supporting activities that are enabling or contributing to one or several expected impacts of destination 2 ‘Living and working in a health-promoting environment’. To that end, proposals under this topic should aim for delivering results that are directed, tailored towards and contributing to most of the following expected outcomes:
- Public authorities and regulators are supported with evidence-based guidance to design occupational health policies;
- Public authorities, employers, organisations and social partners (e.g. trade unions and employer organisations) are better supported with tools, evidence-based intervention options and guidelines to promote mental and physical well-being and health in the workplace;
- Public authorities and the scientific community have access to FAIR data and robust evidence on direct links between psychosocial and physical risk factors at the workplace (considering also individual differences such as age, gender, cultural background, bodily/cognitive abilities) and specific health outcomes;
- Public authorities, regulators and social partners are informed by evidence on the costs, benefits, sustainability and expected challenges of available solutions;
- Public authorities and employers take advantage of the best available knowledge (including new innovations and ways for action) to support interventions and solutions on the design of the built working environment and promote healthier behaviours at the workplace;
- Public authorities and employers develop adequate measures to prevent and reduce the negative outcomes of exposure to psycho-social and physical risk factors in the workplace and support recovery;
- Workers are more protected against work-related hazards and informed about effective prevention approaches based on specific and appropriate measures and health enhancing behaviours;
- Workers living with a chronic disease and/or recovering from a mental of physical health problem are supported to continue/return to work. Scope :
The digital and green transitions (referred to as ‘twin transition’) have been changing the workplace at a rapid pace, leading to new forms of work (e.g. hybrid work, gig economy jobs) or changes in the forms of management and work organisation (e.g. through algorithmic decision-making and digital worker performance monitoring) for workers across the spectrum. These changes have varying impacts on the working conditions, income and health and occupational safety both for skilled and unskilled workers. Furthermore, they contribute to the high costs of work-related illnesses and accidents for employers and the European economy in general.
Mental health and ergonomic-related problems affect a significant number of EU workers. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common work-related health problems in the EU and workers and managers commonly identify stress, depression and anxiety as serious psychosocial outcomes of workplace exposures. Changes in the organisation of work can bring flexibility that allows more people to enter the labour force, but may also lead to psychosocial problems (for example, insecurity, compromised privacy and rest time, inadequate OSH and social protection, as well as stress due to excessive or atypical working hours, performance monitoring by algorithms and similar AI applications).
Some workplaces have either become exclusively virtual or they have evolved into a ‘hybrid’ model (e.g. multilocational working, home office), some work tasks and processes performed virtually and others requiring physical presence. A significant number of jobs are performed at clients’ premises or require workers to commute long distances and/or cross borders regularly. Such workers are facing additional legal, social, environmental and economic issues. Data on how these affect their mental/physical health and well-being is scarce.
The emergence and persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, causing, in some cases, additional challenges for workers’ mental health (differentially affecting certain segments of the working force) and intensifying already existing physical risk factors (e.g. ergonomic risks). The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan aims to promote a healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment in the EU and relies on Horizon Europe for research and innovation supporting economic and social resilience and sustainability. The EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027 recognises the needs, challenges and opportunities that technological innovation and the pandemic bring for the working population and calls for strengthening the evidence-base for policymaking and implementation.
To address the issues described above, research actions under this topic should include several of the following activities:
- Provide adequate and robust data on the impact (positive and negative) that the ongoing changes in the workplace are having on the mental and physical health of different categories of workers and working sectors (e.g. teleworkers, cross-border commuters, gig economy workers, and vulnerable groups such as women, migrants and young and older workers with increased demonstrated risk for MSDs), including gender and intersectional analyses, where appropriate;
- Generate evidence (including data) not only on mental health, but also on mental well-being at the workplace and how changing work organisation due to the twin transitions and the pandemic affects workers’ work-life balance and work ability;
- Generate evidence (including data) on the importance of risk factors (such as stress caused by new working environments, static postures and physical inactivity, physically strenuous and highly repetitive work arising from the workplace design) in the development of chronic and acute diseases;
- Increase the understanding of the links between different health-promoting factors in the working-built environment and physical and mental health outcomes, and how these may be mutually reinforcing;
- Explore the health impacts of changing working times, including excessive and atypical working hours and work in different time zones that blur work from leisure time, limiting recovery. Effects should consider a wide range of diseases;
- Provide recommendations for effective interventions to prevent occupational risks and support the mental and physical health and well-being at individual (worker), organisation (employer) and policy (government) levels for different sectors/types of work, including an analysis on their cost-effectiveness, sustainability and barriers to implementation at national and/or EU level;
- Advance the development of a scientific framework addressing Occupational safety and health (OSH) across policies and sectors and support new and sustainable (future-proof) tools, guidelines and policies concerning the evaluation and design of physical and psychosocial work environment;
- Provide tools and approaches to anticipate new OSH risks, also taking account of lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance in relation to digital technologies and associated new ways of working.
This topic requires the effective contribution of social sciences and humanities (SSH) disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities. Researchers should carefully integrate distributive considerations in their analysis by considering, where relevant, disaggregated effects for different socio-economic groups.
Projects are expected to contribute to the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative by interacting with the NEB Community, NEBLab and other relevant actions of the NEB initiative through sharing information, best practice, and, where relevant, results.
In order to optimise synergies and increase the impact of the projects, all projects selected for funding from this topic will form a cluster and be required to participate in common networking and joint activities. Without the prerequisite to detail concrete joint activities, proposals should allocate a sufficient budget for the attendance to regular joint meetings and to cover the costs of any other potential common networking and joint activities.
Applicants envisaging to include clinical studies should provide details of their clinical studies in the dedicated annex using the template provided in the submission system. See definition of clinical studies in the introduction to this work programme part.
See definition of FAIR data in the introduction to this work programme part.
The future of working in a virtual environment and occupational safety and health, https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/future-working-virtual-environment-and-occupational-safety-and-health
- Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes.
Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System.
- Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes.
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide .
- Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes.
In recognition of the opening of the US National Institutes of Health’s programmes to European researchers, any legal entity established in the United States of America is eligible to receive Union funding.
Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes.
Evaluation and award:
Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes.
The thresholds for each criterion will be 4 (Excellence), 4 (Impact) and 3 (Implementation). The cumulative threshold will be 12.
Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes.
- Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes.
In order to optimise synergies and increase the impact of the projects, all projects selected for funding from this topic will form a cluster and be required to participate in common networking and joint activities (and in determining modalities for their implementation and the specific responsibilities of projects). Depending on the scope of proposals selected for funding, these activities may include:
- Attendance of regular joint meetings (e.g., common kick-off meeting and annual meetings).
- Periodic report of joint activities (delivered at each reporting period).
- Common dissemination and communication activities (which may include, for example: a common dissemination and communication strategy, web portal and visual identity, brochure, newsletters).
- Common Data Management Strategy and Common Policy Strategy (including joint policy briefs).
- Thematic workshops/trainings on issues of common interest.
- Working groups on topics of common interest (e.g. data management, communication and dissemination, science-policy link, scientific synergies).
- Specific conditions: described in the specific topic of the Work Programme .
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