At Midland Lead, we put our employees at the heart of everything we do and realise the importance of good employee mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. As a family-orientated company, we see it as our responsibility to make sure all of our staff have a welcoming environment to work in and are made aware of the options open to them if they need to discuss any personal or work-related issues.
That’s why when Construction News published their Mind Matters survey results, revealing that of the 1,139 construction workers surveyed one in four had considered suicide, we were keen to both raise awareness and assess whether there is anything more we can do as a business to support those suffering from poor metal health.
According to the Mind Matters survey, nearly a third of those surveyed had taken time off due to stress or mental health issues. Of these, three-fifths didn’t tell their manager that the reason was mental health issues. This is likely due to the pre-existing stigma surrounding mental health in construction; it is often considered a weakness to admit to a problem that can’t be physically seen, while many workers believe that a mental health issue will be frowned upon and risk losing their job.
On average across the UK, 25% of people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and 17% will experience it at their workplace. As bad as these figures are, the statistics for construction fare worse. Of everyone surveyed by Construction News, 42% suffered with mental health issues at their current workplace. Although worrying, these results can be explained by the construction culture, which is very transient, can involve working away from home and is predominantly male. This puts people under strain and means that people are less likely to be open about their feelings.
However, there are many within the industry working hard to break down taboos surrounding mental health and to build awareness around the issue. For example, Chandlers Building Supplies recently provided Yoga sessions for their construction workers to help them de-stress.
Here at Midland Lead, we conducted our own survey of staff, to see what they liked, or did not like about their workplace. We have since worked hard to make provision for good health and committed £120,000 into upgrading our facilities for employee wellbeing.
We also have an open approach to discussing these issues should they ever arise. We have team leaders in place who undergo an extensive 12-month training programme in how to conduct themselves as approachable managers and how to respond to mental health issues. Employees are also asked to identify a mentor within the company with whom they have regular, confidential catch-up sessions with.
Alongside employee mental health, the wellbeing of our staff is also high up on our agenda. We upgraded facilities such as our showers, toilets and canteen, added a state-of-the-art training room and gave the buildings a facelift with freshly painted interiors.
Not only have we made our environment more comfortable for everyone at Midland Lead, we also put a great deal of effort into engaging with all members of staff. For example, our managing director holds quarterly staff meeting to let everyone in the company know how the business is performing and what our future plans are. Everyone is involved in this, from the marketing team to the factory workers. We feel it is vital for our employees to know they are an important part of the company and are made aware of all aspects of it.
But more can be done across the industry. Employees need to have somebody they feel comfortable talking to should they need to and they should not feel embarrassed or scared to admit they are struggling. With so many absences in construction being attributed to mental health, nobody can afford to ignore the subject. It is only when companies recognise their responsibility to address the issue that progress can be made.
In recent years employers have increasingly woken up to the real impact stress and anxiety can have in the workplace. If you’re currently experiencing issues with your emotional health and wellbeing but don’t feel your workplace has the infrastructure to help you, there are alternative options. Programmes like Mates in Mind are in place to provide practical advice or charities such as Mind can listen, guide and support.