Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Worker

Whether on or offshore, the work and lifestyle of a remote rotational worker is unique. While lucrative for some, it has long been associated with a high impact on mental health and wellbeing. To reveal the true extent of this, the International SOS Foundation commissioned a ground-breaking global study into the psychological impacts of remote rotational work. Carried out by occupational health psychology consultancy and research group, Affinity Health at Work, the study brings together global findings from stakeholder interviews, a survey of remote rotational workers and an extensive literature review. 

The study provides three key objectives:

  1. Enable stakeholders who have a duty of care to their rotational workforce to make evidence-based adjustments and recommendations to their employees around this type of working arrangement
  2. Enable organisations to increase awareness in their employees about the psychological implications of rotational working and therefore mitigate risks
  3. To ultimately increase the safety, health, security and wellbeing of rotational workers by understanding more about the psychological implications of this type of working arrangement 

Example key results of the study: 


  • 40% of all respondents experienced suicidal thoughts on rotation some or all the time. Compared to the global average of 4-9%, this highlights the importance of recognising mental health resilience. Part of this includes implementing an overarching mental health strategy that focuses on prevention, which should include a way to monitoring and evaluate the successful execution of the strategy over time.
  • Nearly 1/3 (29%) met the benchmark for clinical depression whilst on-rotation. 52% felt that their mood declined, and their mental health suffered whilst on rotation. Potential health and safety risks, increased loss time injuries (LTIs) as well as financial and legal implications were highlighted as key issues from the research. Another main finding is that organisations are recommended to review flexible working polices and arrangements, offer on-site training for employees and develop programmes and resources to improve moral and work-life balance.
  • Over a third exercised less (35%) and experienced worse-quality sleep (38%) and over a quarter (28%) were less able to eat a nutritious diet whilst on rotation. The knock-on effect of poor physical health contribute to additional health and safety risks on site, reduced productivity as well as increased LTIs. Evaluating existing health strategies and policies in partnership with a medical expert is recommended in order to ensure that necessary support structures are relevant to the local workforce and evidence based. Implementing a site wide wellbeing programme with an onsite wellness centre that equips employees will the resources and know-how to enable them to adopt healthy behaviours will not only result in a healthier workforce but in a sustainable business.
  • COVID-19 increased the demands of their job (65%), their stress and anxiety levels (56%) and their working hours (55%). Nearly half were also more concerned for their personal safety (49%). The pandemic has exacerbated potential health and safety risks, challenged productivity levels and increased the risks of accidents on site. Organisations should review their flexible working policies to ensure a suitable work-life balance can be achieved and employees receive the appropriate level of care during these unprecedented times. Ensuring mental health resilience will continue to be challenged as the pandemic remains.

It is pertinent that organisations implement the appropriate preventative measures to insure that their workforce is protected. This includes mechanisms that allow for monitoring of employee wellbeing while ensuring confidentiality, implementing a mental health programme that utilises technology such as TeleHealth to ensure all employees can be supported and educating the workforce with compulsory training and resources to drive awareness.

Download the full 60-page report, for the full insights and practical recommendations for organisations and employers.