Our Managing Director Colin Wright on mental health in the workplace.
I think everyone’s mental health is affected in different ways at various points in their lives. Some suffer with poor mental health harder than others and it can impact on us all at some point in time, directly or indirectly. I think the key thing nowadays is to look out for signs of those suffering and offer the support they need.
Now recognised more than ever before and after fantastic collective efforts to raise awareness of poor mental health; the next step is to recognise how to support and help those suffering in and out of the work place and especially as managers, employees and peers. With figures to suggest that over 10% of sickness absence days are a result of poor mental health, both employers and employees will benefit from recognising the signs and looking after each other in the workplace.
The topic is one that is close to my heart. Having witnessed people close to me struggle with stress, I have experienced first-hand constant low moods, their feeling of isolation and appearing unable to enjoy what they normally do. And this reflects in the workplace and on performance. Perhaps if someone had taken the time to go a bit deeper than the general “Hiya, you alright?” formalities each morning, these people may not have suffered as much.
Being an organisation that offers services to the construction industry, I see this sector as one that suffers considerably. It is a challenging environment – with an ‘alpha male’ stigma, for someone to actually open up and admit that things aren’t okay, really doesn’t come easy. Having worked in construction myself for a number of years I understand the pressures associated with the various job roles and can oddly believe the shocking statistic that male construction workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male.
Suggestions to ease the conversation on Mental Health
Download the free resources for employers from Mind’s website
The best place to start – Mind is a UK charity dedicated to easing the conversation around mental health. With a thorough and useful online bank of resources for employers to peruse, this is an ideal place to start taking steps to address mental health in the workplace.
Increase the 1 to 1 interaction
If you’re a colleague or peer, do ask twice, but if you f
eel like you are prying then don’t try and get the information out of them. Just take the conversation away from the office or the workplace for a moment – pop out for a coffee, or go for a wander during a break or lunch. Especially if you are an employer, keep it informal – build up a relationship with that person so that they can feel they can come to you whenever to have a chat.
As an employer, understand your organisation’s policies on sickness and ensure these include mental health
It’s beneficial for both employer and employee to understand the organisation’s policy on mental health as an illness away from the office. Each individual is different, however a plan of action for when a person is suffering is important – know the steps that need to be taken if someone is perhaps in need of counselling or should be encouraged to see a doctor. The person responsible for HR should outline clear guidance on sick leave policies and it is important all parties involved understand this.
Activities to engage employees and open the conversation on mental health
Whether it be a team building activity to boost morale or to build a stronger relationship/bond between colleagues; or another activity to challenge misunderstandings about mental health and encourage discussion. Activities can help with
productivity and keep the environment refreshed.
Time to Change, another organisation focused on getting us to rethink mental health, has produced an extensive list of activities that can be undertaken with employees to stimulate discussion and many that aren’t demanding on work time at all. A variety of them taking only 5 minutes, some 10, some 15 right up to 30 minutes long.
Other useful resources
Mates in Mind – a charity dedicated particularly to mental health for workers in the construction industry
Mental Health Foundation – focused on finding the sources of and finding solutions to mental health problems.
Rethink Mental Illness – a platform for those suffering with poor mental health to find advice and guidance.
And of course, if you are struggling yourself, pop in for a cuppa and let’s have a chat.