Happy Employees are Productive Employees
On the conclusion of CECA’s #StopMakeAChange fortnight, Dr Alan Curley, Director of UC-Mind Solutions Clinic has written a CECA Scotland Blog on why the construction industry must take mental health seriously and end the continuing stigma.
It’s a shocking statistic that the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide of any sector. Workers are 10 times more likely to die from suicide than from accidents on site. And while in recent years, we have seen many companies start to tackle the issues behind these statistics, we know that all that while the suicide stats are a wake-up call, there are still high levels of stress, anxiety and depression going unreported and untreated.
Addiction is another huge issue in the construction industry, whether it be alcohol, cannabis/drugs, smoking or gambling or a combination of all. Research shows that the sector has far and away the highest rates of abuse, with the impact being felt in lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, absenteeism, low morale and illness. Addiction is all too often associated with mental health issues; it’s a sign that someone is not coping or feeling the way they would like. Alcohol or drugs can be a way to escape their thoughts or feelings, to cope with anxiety and pressures, mask mental discomfort or treat physical pain.
With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health issues at some point in their lives, it comes as no surprise that the cost to the NHS in Scotland is now estimated to be over £10.8 Billion a year, with drug and alcohol misuse costing another £3.6 Billion a year.These costs are rising every year. Many of these cases are caused or exacerbated by the workplace environment and it therefore comes as no surprise that both the Scottish Government and the NHS are increasingly asking companies to develop policies and systems for early detection and prevention and providing support for staff with these issues, so that the NHS does not have to face the burden of treating people who could have been supported earlier and easier within their workplace.
But while the stigma surrounding mental health is starting to break down, in an industry which continues to be male dominated, it can still be very difficult to talk about feelings. Men in the UK are three times more likely to take their own lives than women and the risk factors – such as long working hours, heavy workloads, poor relationships with colleagues and working away from home – are commonplace in the construction industry. There is still a lot of stigma, shame and guilt which stops employees coming forward to talk about addiction or mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety or depression.
While I know that many CECA Scotland member companies are leading the way, in too many workplaces, there is still no provision of mental health awareness training sessions for staff on spotting the signs and symptoms and little support available. Too many employees simply don’t know what to do, where to go, who to turn to, until it is often too late.
In addition, when companies do provide training, sometimes it’s only provided to managers and supervisors and rarely extends to sub-contractors. Therefore the workers who often need the awareness and support the most, simply don’t get access to it. This needs to change. Only with good mental health training and reporting mechanisms being available to all staff, at all levels of a company, will we become better at removing the stigma, giving all employees easy and quick ways to report and access support; ensuring they know there is always time to talk.
Companies should be helping their employees by taking time during appraisals to talk about wellbeing, then simple quick tools can be used to gain real-data on what workplace issues are causing employees stress or anxiety or influencing them to undertake negative behaviours, such as excessive drinking, gambling or use of illegal substances.
Companies often forget that the ‘cost of failure’ of not having good training and policies in place is far more expensive. I have ‘costed’ various interventions and training that can be provided within workplaces to help lower mental health issues and addiction issues: for example, stress awareness and management, resilience raining, mindfulness training, motivational influencing, dealing with change, stopping smoking, changing your alcohol levels, overcoming cannabis, losing weight and increasing physical activity.
I am well aware of the tight margins that exist in the construction sector, particularly right now when workloads in Scotland are in decline. But investing in training solutions and policies can save companies thousands of pounds every year. Not investing is costing companies hundreds of thousands of pounds every year due to ill-health absenteeism, presenteeism, lack of productivity and unhappy workers. Stress is now the biggest cause of absence in any workplace and costs employers a fortune. Happy employees are productive employees.
There is no doubt that mental health is now one of the top health and safety challenges for the construction sector and for all workplaces. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Employees need to constantly develop tools and techniques for dealing with and being successful at juggling our work life but also our home and social life balance and increasingly caring responsibilities too. That way we can all reach our work and life potential and also keep enjoying the challenges faced in life and at work.
If we fail to develop our inner tools for dealing with stress and anxiety, then life and work become overwhelming and workplaces will see more adverse effects on employees mental and physical health. Furthermore, because we have an ageing population and the pension retirement age is changing, employees will have to work for longer in the future and thus will need to stay physically and mentally healthier in order to keep themselves productive in the workplace. Companies who invest in the long term health and wellbeing of their staff will reap the rewards.
So my message is, spend a little money now on staff health and mental wellbeing, it will save a fortune on ill-health absenteeism, presenteeism, lack of productivity and unhappy workers in the future. Helping your staff to deal with stress and cope better at work and at home will pay real and lasting dividends.
If your company is interested in finding out more about support services available to help employees with addiction or mental health issues, then they can contact me at email@example.com or visit our website www.uc-mindsolutions.com