Saturday 10th October was World Mental Health Day, and this year the cause is particularly important. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us all, whether it causes fear, uncertainty or loss of social contact, meaning that it is now more than ever to pay attention to our employees’ mental health.
Manufacturing workplaces are statistically more hazardous than non-manual settings and so as a sector, we’ve become very good at identifying and managing the risks to our employees’ physical health and safety.
However, the nature of manufacturing workplaces comes with a unique set of challenges:
– physically demanding work
– long (sometimes unsociable) hours
– a typically male-dominated workforce, which can manifest a need to be ‘tough’
– older workers, who may suffer from chronic physical ill-health
– later life personal life changes, such as divorce and ‘empty nest syndrome’
What to look for
Everyone is different and while some employees suffering from poor mental health will display obvious symptoms others will not.
Some behavioural changes to look out for are:
– high or low moods
– unusual loss of confidence
– social withdrawal
– other extreme changes to behaviour
– high absenteeism
– failure to take annual leave
– reduction in productivity
– others will go out of their way to hide that they are struggling
What employers can do
Here are some more specific things we’ve been doing at Glossop Cartons which have worked well:
– Talk: organise regular one-to-ones to check in on employees and see what support they need.
– Manage workloads effectively and encourage people to turn off when they go home.
– Operate a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying.
– Organise mental health awareness training. The Samaritans have some very useful resources. Go to https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/workplace/.
– Sign-post employees to external organisations that provide expert help, for example the Samaritans or and Mind. At Glossop Cartons, we are extremely fortunate to be able to access a fantastic organisation called The Printing Charity.
– Encourage kindness and self-care: this applies to all levels of the organisation and might include health and wellbeing initiatives that promote the importance of eating well, being active and maintaining social contacts – even if remotely – with friends and family.
The most important thing that an employer can do is create an environment where mental health isn’t stigmatised and where employees feel confident to ask for help and support without feeling judged.