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Civil Engineer blog

Tackling mental health in the workplace

02 February 2018
The recent ICE Costain Annual Safety lecture focused on the issue of mental health from a human, business and safety perspective. Mind’s Paul Farmer CBE, CEO discusses how engineering and construction can lead the way in tackling mental health at work.
Tackling mental health in the workplace

We all have mental health in the same way that we all have physical heath – and it can fluctuate. Whether or not we have a mental health problem our experience at work can have a huge impact on our state of wellbeing.

At Mind we’ve been be working with employers since 2010 to improve things and our research has found that 4 in 5 of employees with poor mental health said that their workplace was a contributory factor.

Recognising the problem

It’s good to see that many employers are now beginning to realise the cost, both human and financial, of not addressing the mental health needs of their work force. It’s also an issue getting attention from the highest level.

Earlier in the year the Prime Minister commissioned myself and Lord Dennis Stevenson – who was one of the first senior business leaders to speak openly about his own experiences of depression – to lead a review of employment and mental health.

The report revealed the stark reality of the challenge we face. 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem fall out of work every year while issues relating to mental health in the workplace cost the UK economy up to £99bn every year.

6 point plan for employers

After working with business leaders from across different sectors we produced the Thriving at Work report, which introduced 6 mental health core standards that we believe all employers should be putting in place:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

Standards, benchmarking and best practice

These standards have been welcomed by government but we know that the implementation of these standards will differ greatly from among employers and sectors. We need to see a real cultural change with a willingness from employers to properly address the mental health needs of the national workforce and we believe that these core standards lay the foundations for change that will transform people’s workplace experience.

For senior leaders within civil engineering and beyond it’s now time to use these standards as a basis for change that will allow a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce to prosper. We’ve seen this sector take massive strides in improving safety. There was a sense in the room that a similar level of attention can and should be paid to mental health of the workforce.

At Mind we now have a dedicated workplace wellbeing team that works with employers at whatever stage they’re at on a journey to a more mentally healthy workplace.

We provide training and consultancy on everything from mental health awareness and line manager training to emotional intelligence and resilience. We have also launched our Workplace Wellbeing Index – a new benchmark of best policy and practice that also provides bespoke recommendations for the companies involved on areas for improvement.

With growing recognition of the importance of getting this right, we need to start embedding best practice into organisations of all shapes and sizes, and we’ll continue to use our experience to help employers achieve this.

Taking action

The engineering and construction sector has a chance to lead the way. Many firms already work with Mind and we support a number of initiatives such as Mates in Mind.

We were reminded at the lecture that over 400 people in this sector take their own lives every year. Many of these tragic deaths were preventable. It is now time to change the conversation about mental health for good.

  • Adam Kirkup, engineering communities manager at ICE