Utility Week

Utility Week 3rd March 2017

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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UTILITY WEEK | 3rd - 9Th March 2017 | 21 Operations & Assets Market view T he engineering profession, among others, has seen a step change in the way mental wellbeing is perceived in the workplace. The topic is gaining momen- tum, cascading from the boardroom to office floors and construction sites. Progress has been made, but we have a long way to go before the engineering pro- fession – and society more widely – begins to see mental wellbeing in the same light as physical health and safety. Mental health issues are among the lead- ing causes of ill-health and disability world- wide. There are about 450 million people currently suffering from mental illness. One in four people in the past year has experi- enced a common mental issue and sadly, nine out of ten of those have, at some point, experienced stigma and discrimination. The engineering sector has its own spe- cific challenges, such as multi-tiered supply chains, complex organisations such as joint ventures, partnerships and alliances, expec- tations for employees to be co-located away from their home organisation's offices and quite oen their line managers. What's more, although the engineering industry is doing a lot to tackle gender diver- sity, it can't ignore the fact that it remains a male-dominated profession and sadly sui- cide is now the leading cause of death in men between 15 and 49. The combination of these factors has led many organisations to look at how they can develop better support mechanisms for their employees. At MWH, we want our employees to work in a supportive, open and trusting environ- ment, free of stigma and discrimination. We have found that creating an atmosphere in which mental health can be discussed frankly and openly is proving successful. An important element is the training, preparation and coaching of leaders, man- agers and line managers so they have con- fidence to have sensitive conversations with employees. They will also be adequately equipped to identify the warning signs of mental ill health, and signpost employees to the most appropriate support and resources. This upskilling of leaders has been vital to the successful running of "open space sessions". These are small groups in which employees have the opportunity to talk openly with leaders about how the busi- ness can do things better when it comes to addressing mental health in the workplace. As well as these sessions, it is vital to give employees a variety of easy-to-access, useful resources on identifying and managing men- tal health problems. Plus guidance on how to look aer your mental wellbeing through techniques such as mindfulness. Measurement is also a crucial instrument here. To gauge the effectiveness of an organi- sations' wellbeing programme, deploying a metric analysis of a range of factors is a necessity. These might include tracking sick days due to anxiety, stress and depres- sion; employee engagement surveys and using company-wide statistics from health and wellbeing assessments. This rigor- ous approach will help companies monitor employee wellbeing and elevate it to a lead- ership performance indicator. To give mental wellbeing programmes more impetus, a holistic, interconnected approach is required. The backing of your board is important to achieve buy-in across the organisation. While some may assume that these sorts of initiatives should be the preserve of HR, by implementing it as an operational programme you can achieve a greater impact across the business. If designed well, these programmes can be rewarding for employees, and good for business. But fundamentally, this is about creating an industry that is more understand- ing of mental health issues, and prepared to create a workforce that is more mentally resilient to the pressures it operates under. Tracey Gee, wellbeing executive sponsor, and Becky Clarke, wellbeing programme manager, MWH Global It's good to talk Mental health at work is no longer a taboo subject, but companies must develop better support systems for their employees – with board-level approval. Tracey Gee and Becky Clarke report. Mental health in numbers Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. Mental health and behavioural problems (depression, anxiety and drug use, for ex- ample) are said to be the primary drivers of disability, causing over 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds. Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischaemic heart disease. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis. Up to 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. One adult in six has had a common mental disorder in the past year. Engineering companies have specific mental health challenges

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