- Central works agreement on supporting psychological health
- Healthcare as an integral part of a flexible working culture
- Chief personnel officer Kübel: “Diagnose and prevent psychological stress”
- Chairman of the combined works council Löckle: “Act before it’s too late”
Stuttgart, Germany, July 31, 2015 – Bosch is adding a healthcare element to its flexible working culture. In particular, the supplier of technology and services is pledging to protect and support its associates’ mental health. Together with employee representatives, Bosch has drawn up a central works agreement on this issue for its German locations. The agreement is scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2015. It provides for additional preventive, rehabilitation, and reintegration measures to supplement the company health management program. The aim is to identify psychological stress at an early stage, to heighten associates’ and supervisors’ awareness of this issue, and to provide integrated support programs. The hope is that the agreement will help the issue of mental health to be dealt with more openly. And although psychological stress can be triggered by events both on and off the job, its effects often manifest themselves at the workplace. For this reason, Bosch regards the new regulations as a contribution to better work-life balance.
Supporting health, preventing stress
Commenting on the new central works agreement, Christoph Kübel, the director of industrial relations at Robert Bosch GmbH, says: “Healthy working conditions help people do their job well and also enhance their sense of well-being outside the workplace. That is why we want to prevent psychological stress and deal responsibly with this issue in our interpersonal relationships. Such conditions are part and parcel of modern life , but they are often swept under the carpet.” In Kübel’s view, it is important to create an atmosphere of understanding at the workplace as well, and be able to talk openly about this issue.
Anyone can be affected: creating understanding and sensitivity
With the new agreement, Bosch is adding to its company health management program, particularly when it comes to preventing mental illness. The new program element makes use of media such as leaflets, events, e-learning courses, and forums on the Bosch intranet. In addition, supervisors will receive a special guide to dealing with psychologically distressed associates. “Everyone deals with stress and pressure differently. It’s important for people to know what the sources of stress are, and to work with their supervisor to find a remedy if stress becomes excessive,” says Dr. Falko Papenfuss, the chief medical officer at Bosch. It is therefore scheduled to make a training program available for all supervisors by 2016 at the latest. “We hope this measure will make all associates aware of the causes of psychological stress – stress that can have a negative impact and even do permanent harm to health.”
Germany-wide network: making it easy to get help
“Nobody is immune to psychological stress, whether the pressure comes from outside or within,” says Alfred Löckle, the chairman of the combined works council at Robert Bosch GmbH. “But offers of preventive help have to be accepted by supervisors and associates alike, before it’s too late. Hence this agreement. We want to do away with the stigma that attaches to mental illness, and make it easier to address such conditions openly.” To facilitate this, Bosch is establishing a comprehensive network of contacts. In addition to direct supervisors, the focus will shift further toward company medical services, in-house social services, and in-house integration teams. The employee representatives are also available as a first point of contact for confidential consultation. At each location, they will receive extra training as in-house contact persons. When it comes to rehabilitation and reintegration into working life, existing programs for assistance and dialogue are being systematically expanded and networked. The aim of these programs is to support associates confronted with extreme stress situations, and to help them become fit for their jobs again.
Protecting anonymity and personal privacy
When designing these preventive and assistance services, special attention was paid to ensuring anonymity, data protection, and personal privacy. Following any initial consultation with associates suffering mental stress, for example, supervisors are obliged to refer them to in-house specialists. At Bosch, therefore, rehabilitation and reintegration measures are accompanied by company medical personnel, who have to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality. In-house social services conduct confidential advisory sessions either directly or together with external specialists. For this purpose, Bosch has a number of cooperation and service agreements in place with inpatient and outpatient facilities and agencies from the public healthcare system. Associates whose health insurance is covered by Bosch BKK receive fast access to consultant neurologists or specialists in psychosomatic conditions.
Mental illness in Germany
Although psychological stress may have its causes at work or outside work, its effects may only become evident at the workplace. In Germany, workers themselves frequently do not recognize psychological stress, and if they do, they will often try to suppress or hide it for fear of jeopardizing their careers. When consulting primary care physicians, patients will generally describe physical symptoms, but rarely touch on psychological symptoms. The result of this reticence is that many workers become seriously ill on the job and miss more days of work than others. According to the 2014 BKK health report, associates with psychological conditions are on sick leave an average of 40 days each year, which is longer than associates with heart and cardiovascular problems, who miss an average of 22 days. The 2012 Stress Report Germany indicates that healthy leadership behavior protects worker health. Of those workers who receive support from their supervisor on a day-to-day basis, only 17 percent complain of health issues. In cases when workers seldom receive assistance or none at all, the number of those who fall ill increases to 38 percent. According to the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the total annual number of working days lost due to mental illness increased from approximately 34 to 60 million days between 2001 and 2012.
The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 360,000 associates worldwide (as per April 1, 2015). The company generated sales of 49 billion euros in 2014.* Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including its sales and service partners, Bosch is represented in roughly 150 countries. This worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network is the foundation for further growth. In 2014, Bosch applied for some 4,600 patents worldwide. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to create solutions for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”
The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.
*The sales figure disclosed for 2014 does not include the former joint ventures BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH (now BSH Hausgeräte GmbH) and ZF Lenksysteme GmbH (now Robert Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH), which have since been taken over completely.