Working Papers

Mental Health Promotion program for Emotional Laboring Employees

Mental Health Promotion program for Emotional Laboring Employees

  • Author

    Kim, Soo Kyoung

  • Publication Date


  • Pages


  • Series No.

    워킹페이퍼 2022-10||Miscellaneous Reports 2022-10

  • Language


Health promotion interventions for employees can contribute not only to improving an individual’s health but also to improving the entire workplace’s productivity. The Korean government's 2nd Basic Plan for Mental Health and Welfare, which targets the entire population rather than just high-risk groups, emphasizes the importance of early intervention. Since the 2010s, the physical and mental damage experienced by emotional-laboring employees has steadily become an issue in Korea. The rise in emotional labor can be considered a rise in a mental health crisis, therefore a systematic response strategy is required.
Even though the Emotional Laborer Protection Act(Article 41 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act) has been in effect since 2018, it is still necessary to have a mental health promotion strategy that goes beyond protecting employees from particular risk factors such as verbal abuse and assault by customers, which both considers risk and protection factors. Therefore, this research attempted to present a proactive and integrated mental health promotion plan for employees who engage in emotional labor. In this research, emotional laboring employees were defined as employees who serve customers face-to-face/non-face-to-face and were limited to those who were thought to perform low-skilled labor(product·food sellers, call center counselors, and telemarketers).
Emotional labor can be defined to be the formalized expression of emotions which workplace wants, in order to achieve the organization's goals. Emotional labor can cause mental health problems such as fatigue, burn-out, stress, and depression. But adequate emotional control and social support can serve as regulatory factors which might prevent mental health problems.
According to the employees’ health promotion guidelines presented by international organizations, industrial safety and health has recently converged into health promotion. Employee mental health promotion interventions should, according to the guidelines, 1) be combined with current industrial safety and health plans, 2) be proactive, 3) have multi-level and integrated approach, 4) be developed and implemented within a multi-agency collaborative system, 5) emphasize employee participation and employer’s role. We also reviewed the policies in foreign countries. In the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany, various organizations were collaborating in the whole policy process; to change workplace environment, advocate, implementing public campaign, and research. In France and Japan, some measures(e.g. regular mental health check-ups, placing health committee in the workplaces) were mandatory at workplaces to improve the mental health of employees.
We reviewed the policies in Korea; the services of Workers' Health Centers, the implementation status of the Emotional Laborer Protection Act, the awareness-raising public campaign, the services of Emotional Labor Centers, the National Action Plan for Suicide Prevention Basic Plan for Mental Health and Welfare, and the Employee Assistance Program(EAP) of Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service. The results of the review are as follows; 1) the actual effect of the Emotional Labor Protection Act was low 2) there was an achievement of the awareness-raising campaign, and it is time to shift its target audience to business owners, 3) various organizations(subjects) in labor, management, and political sectors should cooperate to protect emotional laboring employees, and 4) the role of Workers' Health Centers should be strengthened.
The following plan for emotional laboring employees were offered based on the study's findings.
Activity 1: Regular mental health check-ups should be provided for employees at emotional labor(service industry) workplaces.
Activity 2: Employees identified as high risk should be referred to institutions and get treatment(e.g. counseling).
Activity 3: Education and programs should be provided to individual employees.
Activity 4: The workplace-level protection measures should be implemented
Activity 5: Risk assessment for elements related to mental health should be implemented.
Activity 6: Actions(promotion and education) should be provided to the business owners to raise their awareness of employee mental health promotion.
Activity 7: The establishment and operation of a network (partnership) for solving emotional labor problems are required.
Activity 8: Actions to change the perception of customers and to lessen their verbal abuse and violence are required.
Many contents of the plan proposed in this research can also be applied to mental health promotion of employees with many other occupations. Therefore, if the contents are modified to suit the occupational characteristics and working environments, the plan can be widely used.
The policy suggestions related to the proposed plan are as follows. First, as the support within the national system, adding mental health items to the workplace health examination, and monitoring&strengthening Emotional Laborer Protection Act are required. Next, as the support at the local and regional levels, improving the support toward the employees through Workers' Health Centers, providing the referred services to mental health high-risk groups, providing budget supports for partnership building, and improving the evaluation system for network activities are needed. Last, as the support measures at workplace level, campaigns targeting business owners, and implementing strategies suited to workplace characteristics(e.g. reward for best practices, additional financial compensation for small businesses, etc.) that can activate protection measures are required.


공공누리 공공저작물 자유 이용허락