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Mental health over salary? Spanish workers are shifting their priorities, study shows

27% of workers were considering leaving their jobs according to a study by Infojobs and Esade
27% of workers were considering leaving their jobs according to a study by Infojobs and Esade Copyright Annie Spratt/ Unsplash
Copyright Annie Spratt/ Unsplash
By Laura Llach
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A new report shows mental health is the priority for Spanish workers, despite the country's high unemployment rate.

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After seven years working as a waitress in eastern Spain, Eugenia Causarás said enough was enough.

"It's not a decision you make from one day to another, I spent a long time thinking about it," she said.

It got to a point where her job’s working conditions and endless shifts were so stressful that she couldn’t cope with it.

"I once had to do three shifts in one working day, with only six hours of rest between one day and the next," the Spaniard told Euronews Next.

"I was working around the clock so it was impossible to balance my work with my personal life".

With a youth unemployment rate of almost 30 per cent and a precarious labour market, not many people in Spain are encouraged to quit their job.

But Causarás had no choice. She knew she had to do so to look after her mental health.

In 2022, 27 per cent of workers were considering leaving their jobs in Spain, an increase of 4 percentage points compared to the previous year, according to the latest study published this week by Infojobs and Esade, a leading Spanish university.

Almost a third of respondents pointed out mental health issues and taking care of their emotional well-being as their main reason to quit. 

Aiming for a pay rise, which traditionally had been the most popular reason to quit a job, came second in the rankings.

Anxious just looking at a calendar

Since January 2022, the World Health Organisation started recognising burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis, as established in the International Classification of Diseases.

This was exactly what Noelia Gallego felt when she realised that her work was draining her. Every time her digital marketing company had a crisis with one of its clients, a marathon workday followed.

This started taking its toll. Every day she felt pressure in her chest and just having a quick look at her packed working schedule triggered anxiety.

The quality of jobs has increased in Spain and workers do not settle for minimum standards just because they fear losing their job
Amparo Ballester
Professor of Labour and Social Security Law, University of Valencia

"I didn't enjoy my work as much as I did at the beginning. I thought that this would be something temporary, that it would go away, but it kept getting worse," she said.

Gallego went to see her doctor and got sick leave for depression. Two weeks later, she realised that this was a stopgap and not the solution to her problem, so she plucked up the courage to quit her job.

For Amparo Ballester, Professor of Labour and Social Security Law at the University of Valencia, three factors have increased emotional well-being awareness among workers: greater job stability, a change in the type of work, and the growing importance of mental health.

The expert pointed out that the latest labour reform passed in 2021 by the Spanish Socialist government, which aimed to reduce the high rates of temporary employment, has achieved its objective.

Just over a year since its approval, it has managed to reduce temporary contracts to a historic low of 15 per cent, while increasing the number of permanent ones.

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"The quality of jobs has increased in Spain and this means that workers do not settle for minimum standards just because they fear losing their job," Ballester said.

The fact that jobs are now more creative and less mechanical also puts a strain on the worker. "This means more intellectual and mental fatigue rather than physical one," she added.

The situation worsens when workers don't get a break from their devices and feel like they should always be reachable. 

"You get a call from work and an email at any time. There is no such thing as digital disconnection. This affects you emotionally," said Encarna Abascal, national secretary for occupational risk prevention at CSIF, one of the major trade unions in Spain.

Both Abascal and Ballester agree that while in the past workers' main concern was to earn money, now the trend is different, and awareness of mental health plays a central part.

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Unsplash
The lack of digital disconnection takes an emotional toll on the workers.Unsplash

'Quality of life is priceless'

This year is the first one the survey conducted by Infojobs specifically sought the reason for quitting a job, showing the importance of emotional well-being for workers and their reduced focus on financial motives.

However, not all age groups see things the same way. According to the findings, mental health concerns are highest among older workers.

It is the main motivation for changing jobs among those aged 45-54 and it has also managed to rank as the second reason among 25-to-34-year-olds.

Gallego belongs to the latter age group and has come to value her emotional stability. 

At the moment, she is unemployed and looking for a job, but she is now very aware of the working conditions she is looking for and filters the offers much more than when she started working 10 years ago.

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"I have learned that quality of life is priceless. We often forget to live and just work, when it should be the other way around," she said.

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