My personal blog

Health, Safety and Wellbeing in migrant workers[1]

Francisco D. Bretones[2]


Migration has sometimes been oversimplified as a flow of workers from “poorer” developing nations to “wealthier” industrialised nations. The issue however is more complex and currently migration is a global phenomenon wherein all countries are recipients of workers from and send workers to third countries.


The working conditions of these new workers are not well-known. Some studies have established that the negative impact on migrant workers is cumulative, and primarily stems from adverse living and working conditions in a new country and increased levels of vulnerability. These groups are also subject to more diffused forms of social exclusion which may lead to diminishing socio-economic opportunities and subjective well-being.


In light of above, it is imperative to examine more critically the impact of such hazards and on health and wellbeing of migrant workers, in order to shed light on the social and health implications surrounding migrant work.



[1] The book Health, Safety and Wellbeing in migrant workers has released in Winter 2020 published by Springer

[2] Francisco Diaz Bretones is associate professor at the University of Granada (Spain) and Head of the Research Group in Organizational Health and Wellbeing.


Facing the post-holiday blues[1]

Francisco D. Bretones[2]


The academic year starts and not only students return to class, their parents also return to work.

And that return to work goes hand in hand with one of the most frequent symptoms at this time of year: the post-holiday blues (or post-vacation blues).Vague anxiety, increased irritability, feelings of nostalgia, sleep problems and general discomfort are common in many workers when summer holidays are over. 


But the post-holiday blues is not a new concept. In fact, in 1955 the ‘holiday syndrome’ was already mentioned in the Psychoanalytic Review as that syndrome which appeared from a few days before Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday of November) until a few days after the New Year, being linked to the return after a long holiday period. 


In the field of Occupational Health Psychology, the importance of holiday and rest is well known as well as their positive consequences for work performance and prevention of negative personal (stress, depression) and organisational (burnout or absenteeism) effects.


Holidays give us the possibility of suppressing stressing activities, reducing our physical and intellectual activity as well as the usual social demands of our daily life, while facilitating our physical and, especially, our psychological recovery. Therefore, rest is not only necessary; its absence may cause serious illnesses and even the worker’s death (deaths due to overwork in Japan or karoshi are a real example).


But although holidays and rests are important, constant social and work changes have brought about a reduction in our time off work. Thus, certain studies have found that American workers actually enjoy 3.5 less days of holiday than 10 years ago. Moreover, technological innovations have prompted us to spend more time “connected” to our work (either in the office, our house or holiday place).


But what would be the ideal length of holidays? There isn’t just one answer. It depends on the individual differences of each person and on the job they perform. Thus, in the case of hard physical jobs, breaks of some minutes are enough to recover from the lack of oxygen, the replenishment of muscle glycogen can last several days, whereas the psychological or emotional recovery will be longer and harder. 


In any case, various studies have confirmed that the benefit of holidays on wellbeing reaches its peak at the beginning of the second week of holidays depending on the leisure activities undertaken during that period.


Despite the beneficial effect of holidays, the return to work produces some symptoms that affect not only our health but also our daily wellbeing. Those symptoms are not a syndrome or an illness, as was diagnosed in the 50s, but they can interfere in the worker’s performance until the first two weeks after his/her return, affecting his/her personal life too. 


There are several solutions to relieving this post-holiday discomfort and they all lie in the transition between the return to daily life and the previous rest period. Some recommendations could be the following:

  • returning from the holiday place 2 or 3 days early;
  • adapting sleep hours to the usual working hours;
  • starting work calmly during the first days;
  • keeping to a sensible work schedule;
  • keeping some social and leisure activities;
  • practising physical activity out of work, as well as relaxation techniques and/or meditation.

In addition, we should take into account that in some cases, these post-holiday blues symptoms can be aggravated by other organizational problems such as harassment, violence, incivility or conflicts with colleagues or supervisors, in which cases holidays in fact become an escape from conflict situations.


[1] The original article was published by the British Safety Council in Safety Management on 27 September 2017

[2] Francisco Diaz Bretones is associate professor at the University of Granada (Spain) and Head of the Research Group in Organizational Health and Wellbeing.


The third level educational system in Spain:

A brief introduction


Francisco Diaz Bretones*


Sometimes, some people ask me about how the PhD program works. That´s understandable because in Spain there is not clear information about it, or it is disseminated in several places, or in many cases information is just available in Spanish.


Currently, studying a PhD program is very different to when I studied and the requirements are higher. What are the requirements?


Firstly, you obviously require a Master diploma in a related field to the doctorate program. Any European Master diploma (with a minimum of 60 European credits) is satisfactory. If you have studied in another University outside of Europe, a validation process will be required, so you need to start the process in advance.

 Another important aspect is about your financial situation. The university fees in Spain are almost free (around 300 euros per year in PhD Programs) but you need to be financially independent for the next 3-4 years. The program (and the task associated) will demand a 100% involvement and full time student activity. Some grants or external financial support will be taken into consideration.

 Previous contact with a University professor is another important issue. The PhD program is quite self-learning, and having a tutor who leads you from the beginning will be an advantage.


Finally, some language knowledge (especially an English upper intermediate level) and previous scientific experience will be valuable.


The selection process is usually very strict. Usually, most Spanish Universities have two deadlines per year (September/February) and each University or program receives more applications than seats on offer. Thus, depending on University or program prestige, many applicants don´t get a seat.


In any case, enrolling in a PhD program is an amazing and exciting process that allows you to learn about the scientific world, and develop new knowledge and abilities.



* Francisco Diaz Bretones, PhD is an associate professor at the Univeraity of Granada (Spain)

Entrepreneurship and Psychosocial Health

Francisco Diaz Bretones[1]

Recently, Dean Shepherd (Indiana University) sent me his book “Trailblazing in Entrepreneurship” that has been published with Holger Patzelt (Technical University of Munich). The book is an exciting proposal for new paths on the research, taking the person as central source of entrepreneurship.

I enjoyed reading the book[2]. I found it very interesting, especially the chapter 7 about Entrepreneurship and Health because from the research group for Wellbeing and Organizational Health we are investigating about how organizational patterns can affect workers’ health, especially on psychological and social aspects in terms of chronic stress, psychological disorders, apathy, exhaustion, and other social consequences as work-family conflict, loneliness, lack of social support, etc. In concrete, we are interested in the new and emergent psychosocial risks at work and the factors which cause them.

I agree that some aspects  of entrepreneurship behavior as flexibility, autonomy, ongoing professional career, social support and emotions are positive as protective factors for entrepreneur´s health as the same time as the opposite ones (inflexibility work, lack of autonomy or empowerment, lack of professional career, social and family conflict and exhaustion or emotional fatigue) are precipitating factors of psychosocial risk in employees. Maybe we could add job instability, work intensification, new technical and organizational demands, new forms of violence or incivility among other and we will have a complete picture of emergent risks at work.

Also, since time ago, I have investigated and published about entrepreneurship as attitude. Or, in other words, how entrepreneurship is not synonymous or exclusive of business owners rather it's a wider psychological concept and in that sense it´s important to promote and improve it in all our employees. Entrepreneurship (or “intrapreneurship”) would be thus a mix of attitudes, empowerment and work conditions to allow better organizational performance and personal well-being. 

I think this link between Entrepreneurship and Health factors is a fresh and exciting open field to ongoing studies and makes me think about the idea of promoting entrepreneurial attitudes in workers as protective policy. I encourage academics, managers, and all workers to discuss and move forward in the idea of how intrapreneurship and empowerment can play an important role as preventive mechanisms of psychosocial risks at work.

[1] Francisco Diaz Bretones is Associate Professor of the School of Work Sciences and Head of Wellbeing and Organizational Health Research Group  at the University of Granada (Spain)

[2] You can find it at the site:



Smell the old cheese

Francisco Díaz Bretones*


This sentence is a personal tribute to my favourite North American psychologist Spencer Johnson and his famous book Who moved my cheese?, a bestseller that led the New York Times’ list for several weeks 15 years ago.


I will not expand on this point or tell the story of the book (that is already known by many people). I will just say that it is an allegory about change. The main characters are two “little mice” that constantly anticipate change and two “little men” that always resist it. The cheese represents success, development and progress, the act of fulfilling the personal and organizational needs.


The fact of picking up this story is due to the recent economic, labour and social events in our society that cause a permanent feeling of fear, discomfort and frustration (at all levels). We could say that there is a general shout claiming “I want my cheese” (we can replace this sentence with any of those that we hear every day in the street). The problem is that the cheese moved some time ago and devoting ourselves to demand it will not lead us to anywhere, only to frustration and despair. Obviously, this is the most comfortable position but, possibly, by staying still and waiting for the situation to “improve”, we will get nothing (not now, not later). It is true that everybody is afraid of changes but, a certain level of fear can be good if it drives the change (anger and rage are certainly not good advisors or partners for change).


But the organizations (and we) must get used to the fact that change is permanent and we cannot stop it (even if we want or if we are really good in that moment). In fact, that change will surprise us when we least expect it. That is the reason why we must be prepared for continuous change.


Movement is important. In fact, in all the organizations, the big success has come when those decided to “move”, take a risk despite the uncertainty about a greater loss. But everybody knows that our fears are irrational and greater in our minds than in real life. 


We must go back to our search and remember that searching is funny (like in the game Easter bunny hunt where children must find hidden Easter eggs).


The “cheese” we have is old. In fact, it became mouldy a long time ago although it is now when we are realizing. We have lost some time but, we can still regain it. Let’s start the change, the search for new unexplored “cheeses”. As General MacArthur said ‘there is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity’.


Francisco Díaz-Bretones is Professor of Human Resources Management Policies at the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as organizational consultant and has given courses and seminars in more than ten countries. He has published several papers about Human Resources Management.

Beyond work-life balance

Francisco Diaz Bretones


Can someone be a fantastic father/mother but a terrible worker? Can someone be a great manager but a bad colleague?


The public and private spheres, the different roles that we represent in our lives, although independent, they are closely related. The same dramatic actor can superbly play the role of a serial killer or a husband in love without having those roles in his/her real life. Unfortunately, we are not actors (although we try it sometimes), life is not made of different films and people around us are not a passive audience. We are just the same person, with the same ideas, stereotypes, attitudes and ways of behaving in every situation.  In other words, every aspects of our life are part of the same one reality: life.


The relations between the everyday life and our way of understanding people in an organization are very strong. We make an effort to read many books about business management but we dedicate little interest and effort to managing our own life and the life of those around us.


Fear, insecurity, absence of autonomy and recognition, lack of a nice climate are just some of the factors that will not only make our work more difficult, but they will also make us have a lower-quality private life. Only by improving these aspects we could achieve the excellence and development of the human potential as well as a better psychological well-being. It is about making companies stop being toxic places (in a broad sense of the word) and become healthy spaces.


Francisco Diaz-Bretones is Professor of Human Resources at the University of Granada (Spain). This is an extract from his paper as invited speaker at the International Conference on Institutional Culture (Bogota, Colombia).

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