Culture change is key to improving mental health in the workplace
This week [the 13th-19thMay] marked this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, an increasingly recognised and important annual event that reflects the need for better understanding of mental health issues across society as well as the support available for those who may be suffering.
While it’s heartening to see so many businesses publicly declaring their commitment to mental health-related issues, it’s vitally important that companies match their words with actions. Showing awareness of the importance of mental health provisions in the workplace is to be applauded, but it’s crucial that this is matched by the right management, understanding, behaviours and proactive support. This means knowing how to focus on creating an inclusive, supportive and encouraging workplace rather than one that indicates a culture which could inadvertently lead to the development of stress, depression or other psychological problems.
The construction industry has historically had a reputation for pressurised, difficult physical working conditions and long working hours. In addition, the safety critical nature the work we deliver can often place extra pressure on people which can exacerbate mental health problems if not carefully monitored and mitigated.
Combining the above with a common industry requirement for working away from home and a traditionally male workforce with a stereotypical reluctance to speak about emotional issues, means that there are many factors that could lead to an individual needing help.
In the past decade, the conversation around mental health has changed for the better and there is an increased recognition that businesses have a responsibility to implement working practices and encourage a culture that proactively supports their staff. While ad hoc programmes such as physical wellbeing activities are good starting points and may help staff feel better and unwind for an hour or so, they are no replacement for good management and sustained and well thought out programmes of ongoing support.