Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week, ICE President Paul Sheffield considers the impact that the current Covid-19 pandemic is having on the mental health of the nation and our membership.
Locking people into their homes for a huge proportion of their day - week after week - will be very difficult for some people to bear. Some of us might have space in which we can work and exercise but you have to spare a thought for those less fortunate who have little to do and no space to do it in or maybe a lot of work to do from home but an environment that doesn’t support it.
I am sure that many people reading this will be someone’s line manager - so take some time out to contact those in your team to see if they really are OK. It is nice to ask and you just might learn something that will be of benefit to you forever.
I am sure many people will be concerned about the health of the economy over the coming years.Paul Sheffield
I have been impressed by the work being put in by a small group of young engineers including one of my Future Leaders to set up Constructing Mindsets - a small organisation at the moment but they are publishing a series of podcasts on the web around mental health in the industry, certainly worth tuning in to. I am sure many people will be concerned about the health of the economy over the coming years and whether their companies will be able to retain employment levels.
As we entered this crisis I think one of the biggest challenges facing many civil engineering and construction companies was around how they were going to find the resources they would need to deliver the work they could see ahead. So hopefully once we get through this bump in the road the longer term future for our industry will again be buoyant. ICE do have a vibrant and committed team of people at the Benevolent Fund and they are doing stirling work supporting the many members who have contacted them through this period. They are able to help out and provide support and advice for anyone struggling to cope with the current situation - they would be delighted to hear from you if you need help.
Whilst I am sure many people will be nervous about going back to work due to the possibility of infection, there will also be many people who will be very pleased to get out to a work place, see colleagues face to face and to be able to resume some form of normal life. As we all start to prepare for a return to the workplace (in some form) we should also be mindful that a significant part of our population has been going to work day in day out through this period anyway - not just our health workers and those in the food retail industry - but also those key workers in energy, water, gas, telecoms and of course construction too.
There must have been a small army of people actively upgrading the various web based communications channels such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, Webex - many of which have released performance upgrades over the last few weeks to further enhance our ability to work and socialise online.
I think many of us will have been surprised at how effective these team meetings can be and I have been keen to make sure the planned activities that I had for my Presidential year - which had revolved around getting out and about across our global community - can resume and also that we can continue to engage with and hopefully update the knowledge of our members.
In my last blog I mentioned that we had held the first of a series of online lectures that were being introduced as part of ICE Council’s programme of Strategy Sessions. That event (Assuring the public that Infrastructure is safe) attracted over 1,000 people and I am pleased to say that the level of interest in many of our digital platforms has been maintained throughout this last month.
A second lecture following up on the publication of the Enabling Better Infrastructure report last year attracted around 600 people from around the world. The ICE website has attracted a five-fold increase in the traffic to its news, blogs and events pages over the last year, an 85% increase in latest news articles and a 149% increase in interest around events.
We saw the latest edition of NCE move to a digital platform which I for one was very impressed by. (This move has been requested by EMAP, who own the publication, for a two month period).
In resuming my Presidential visits recently I had two virtual days in the SW region last week and two days in London this week. Despite not meeting a single person in the flesh, our local teams arranged web based events that saw an interaction with around 800 people across nine events - probably far more than I would have been able to get to meet had I been able to visit in person (and the commute home afterwards was so much quicker!)
I do miss personal contact so will always regret that I can’t see people face to face on these occasions but I hope the intensity of the debate made up for some of the personal chemistry that might have been lacking. Covid-19 has obviously been a key talking point but I think we have been able to be remarkably constructive in the debate around taking all the good bits that we are experiencing and making sure we don’t forget them once we revert to normal. Panel discussions with big audiences in London about the future of infrastructure in the city and in the SW discussing the topic of digital acceleration were great anchor events and attracted a huge amount of interest.
Web based debates on What Covid 19 will mean for net zero 2050 was another blockbuster discussion and I would like to thanks all those who conceived the events and invited the panellists and drummed up the audience for the hard work they put in. Most of those events were recorded and can be viewed in our event archive.
I do hope we can all keep positive in these unusual times - my thoughts and sympathies are with you if you are struggling and I would ask each and every one of you to reach out to a colleague who might need some help.