Stress and mental health at work are the leading causes of long-term sickness absence in the UK, with chronically poor working conditions impacting employee physiological and psychological health. Social workers play a significant part in the fabric of UK society, but have one of the most stressful occupations in the country. The aim of this project was to work with UK social workers to co-develop, implement, and evaluate a series of smartphone-based mental health initiatives. A Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, consisting of semi-structured interviews and focus group and steering group discussions, was utilized to design the mental health and well-being interventions. Study efficacy was evaluated via a pre- and post-intervention survey and post-intervention semi-structured interviews. Interventions developed were psycho-educational, improved top-down and bottom-up communication, and provided access to a Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant for those struggling and at risk of sickness absence. Six months following dissemination, surveys demonstrated significant improvements in communication, and mean score improvements in four other working conditions. This project, therefore, demonstrates that co-developed initiatives can be positively impactful, despite post-intervention data collection being impacted by COVID-19. Future studies should build upon these findings and broaden the PAR approach nationally while taking a robust approach to evaluation.
Keywords: app; intervention; mental health; stress; well-being; working conditions.