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April 13, 2021

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remote rotational workers

‘40% of remote rotational workers experience suicidal thoughts some or all of the time’

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on remote rotational workers has been revealed in a new global study by the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work.

The role of a remote rotational worker, be that on or offshore, creates a unique lifestyle which has long been associated with having an impact on mental health and wellbeing. Data from a new global report by the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work, ‘Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Workforce’, has uncovered some of the psychological impacts associated with this type of work and says they have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The study, undertaken by 200 remote rotational workers from mining, offshore and seafaring/maritime from across the world, has highlighted evidence of a high level of suicidal thoughts, clinical depression, impacts on physical health (such as diet) and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this workforce.

Dr Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, Medical Director Wellness and NCD’s, International SOS, commented: “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.”

Key study findings:

  • 40% of all respondents experienced suicidal thoughts on rotation some or all the time (compared to average of 4-9%). 1 in 5 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.


The data also uncovered that almost a quarter (23%) of the remote rotational workers surveyed were experiencing emotional exhaustion on a weekly basis. 46% had higher stress levels while on rotation and over half (57%) were not engaged in their work. 23% reported that they received no psychological support from their employers.

Dr Rachel Lewis commented: “We would expect burnout to be between 2-13% in the general population, so the almost quarter that we see from the survey is particularly high. Burnout can have a serious impact both personally and professionally, on the ability of an individual to carry out their role. Remote rotational work may come with the perks of higher pay, but with its propensity to be isolating at the best of times. On and offshore, working pressures and varying shift patterns also add their weight. And this is not to mention the impact of the current pandemic, which has seen may remote workers unexpectedly away from family and friend networks for longer than anticipated.”

Listen: Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • 65% experienced increased job demands.
  • 56% increased working hours stress, anxiety.
  • 49% concerned for personal safety (before pandemic?).
  • 1/3 became increasingly lonely
  • 23% had more negative physical symptoms (such as headaches and stomach issues)

The tip of the iceberg

Dr Rodriguez-Fernandez continues: “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.”

  • Over a third exercised less (35%).
  • 38% experienced worse-quality sleep (38%).
  • Over a quarter (28%) were less able to eat a nutritious diet whilst working.

However, the report did find that the majority of respondents felt that their health and safety was prioritised. 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.

The report, and practical recommendations on mitigation measures for companies is available to purchase here.

Safety & Health Podcast

Hear from Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist for the Health and Safety Executive about work-related stress and Inspector Phil Spencer, Blue Light Programme Co-ordinator at Cleveland Police, discusses the stress of working on the frontline during the pandemic.

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
3 years ago

21st Century the digital transitional age not only blurring our vision with eye-strain but, having blurred the boundaries between work/life “fatigue” is the new occupational health pandemic driven by a range of work related stressors resulting in non-communicable diseases, some life changing foreshortening our working life-cycle while living longer.

An Ageing Safety Male
An Ageing Safety Male
3 years ago

A very interesting report, it would be interesting to see the same results of the surrey on care home employees and our NHS front line workers

Many who have been left with PTSD and are regularly battling with burnout