Sustaining health and workability in a 'new normal'

Jennifer Lunt, Kim Burton, Alan Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Before the coronavirus pandemic, mental health and musculoskeletal disorders represented the leading, and most long-standing causes of sickness absence and avoidable work disability.[1,2] This was despite increased workplace regulation, clinical guidance[3] and the heightened profile of mental health within national discourse.[4] Presenteeism, or 'showing up for work when one is ill'[5] was also deemed an undesirable accelerating trend with an adverse impact on national productivity.[6] Similarly, beliefs prevailed that work should be avoided until an employee is 100% fit, and that working with a health condition inevitably leads to health deterioration.[3,7]

A more positive perspective regarding work’s health benefits had also become a core premise of UK Government consultations and policy in this area;[8,9] namely that 'good work', where there is a person-job fit, is 'good for wellbeing'.[10] Sickness absence beyond four weeks was held to substantially increase the risks of spiralling work disability, long-term absence, and worklessness.[9,11] Moreover, less than half of the UK workforce had access to occupational health services[12].

Since then, the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic has added layers of complexity to the health and work relationship. These not only concern preventing exposure to the virus. Unavoidable health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic must also be addressed. This article unpacks these hard-to-prevent challenges and potential work-focused accommodations that could enable more successful adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date12 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2020


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