Starting Conversations around Mental Health in the Manufacturing Industry
Starting conversations around mental health in the workplace can be difficult and can seem daunting to all parties involved. In recent years we’ve seen an increase in people suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD and other Mental health conditions, especially in places of work. Manufacturing in particular is ranked in the bottom 10% of industries for well-being even with 60% of manufacturers carrying out physical risk interventions, only 15% assess risks to mental health.
Over 17 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22. So whilst physical safety is at the top of manufacturing organisations, the question is, how do manufacturers ensure that mental health is also at the top of the priority list.
In recent years, we’ve seen the shift employees have made regarding their well-being and personal needs. We’ve seen an increase in remote working where possible; flexible working requests, and requests for pension sacrifices to name a few. What we’ve also seen is the rise of quiet quitting, staff taking a step back from actively engaging in their work tasks to have a more balanced work life, but also because they are no longer engaged within the business. Quite quitting can be a result of many issues employees face during their working life, however, mental health is usually at the top of the list of reasons for doing so.
How the manufacturing industry looks at mental health and provides support in this area has started to shift, however, to retain top talent and attract new talent into the industry, manufacturers need to take drastic action to ensure their workplaces and employees are understanding how mental health can drastically affect productivity, output, retention and safer working environments. By starting the conversations internally, and providing resources and support, manufacturers can create a positive and productive environment that is attractive to new talent and retains well-needed talent within their organisation.
As an employer, you can play a vital role in promoting mental health in the manufacturing industry by incorporating various practices into your workplace. You can also encourage your suppliers and partners to do the same. If we work together, we can create a culture that prioritises the well-being of all employees in the manufacturing industry.
To get started on creating a culture that promotes positive communication and better mental health, we have pulled together the best ways to foster new practices to improve mental health in manufacturing:
Speak to your teams
Part of the difficulty that organisations face is not understanding the needs of their workforce. How are your employees feeling? Is there already a positive culture? What works well and what doesn’t? These are all questions that shouldn’t be answered in a boardroom but should be answered by your employees. Conduct an internal anonymous survey to find out what they think about the current support around mental health, and use this opportunity to find out what they would like implemented. However, it is essential to communicate to your teams how this information will be used and how their answers will help improve the workplace. Once the surveys have been collected, create a response report and decide on an action plan based on the responses provided.
Once an agreed plan of action has been completed, share this with your teams to show your commitment to their needs and prioritise their well-being. Plan to survey your teams once per year to track improvement and see what is working for your business.
Improving workplace flexibility
Following a recent study by Westfield Health, it was found that 41% of employees across manufacturing felt close to burnout, with 22% wanting a career break due to the pressures felt throughout 2021 and 2022. Managing employee leave and breaks should always be considered with stress and mental health factors at the forefront – make sure that employees are taking annual leave at least every 3 months, even if for just 2 days. Regularly ensuring employees are taking well-needed breaks from work can help avoid staff burnout by up to 32%. With employees needing more support throughout stressful periods, it can often be difficult for them to ask for help and support.
During working weeks, employees need more active support in managing workloads along with regular breaks. Management teams should work towards ensuring breaks are easily had and those workloads are spread evenly across teams to allow for breaks and a more steady flow of activity.
Introduce Well-being & Mental health initiatives
Offer an employee assistance program (EAP). An EAP is a free helpline where employers pay a specialist company to provide their employees with access. This is where employees can get free confidential advice on any issue causing them difficulties. Providing employees with mental health resources will allow them to understand how they can look after their mental health and recover from issues they may experience. It will allow them to feel more supported in the workplace, which will see an increase in productivity and conversations happening around the workplace.
Rotation within the workplace
Creating more rotation within the workplace can see employees experience more variety within their work. Introducing this can allow employees to switch roles within the duties of their job. Doing this can see employees become more focused and engaged within their role, they can also learn more about the wider elements of the manufacturing organisation. Working this way will also allow for skills gaps to be bridged by sharing best practices and creating a multi-skilled workforce.
Provide Mental Health training
Having employers in the business who are trained in mental health first aid is vital. Mental health first aiders will be able to provide early intervention for someone who may display mental health issues. Training employers as first aiders in mental health allows for a more supportive and open culture within the workplace. They are not therapists or psychiatrists, but rather someone who can offer support through giving guidance to the individual. These individuals can also help the process of creating mental health-focused initiatives within the business and be a point of contact for those not comfortable enough to speak to their line managers.
Encourage open communication
It is important that employees feel they can have open communication with their employers, managers and team leaders. Having open communication between employers and employees creates a more supportive workplace. Employees will feel as though they can talk about how they feel, which will create a safe space for them to share their concerns. Open communication also boosts productivity, improves employee engagement and strengthens the team.
Working together can often provide simpler and more productive solutions. Through the introduction of new practices, we can break down the stigma attached to mental health in manufacturing organisations by amplifying the needs of the people who keep the UK’s manufacturing industry going. This is why E3 Recruitment works with several organisations on their mental health initiatives through employee research, action plan creation and tracking of impacts mental health initiatives have on employees.
In 2022 we chose Andy’s Man Club as our charity partner. Andy’s Man Club provides free-to-attend mental health support groups to over 2600 men per week with over 115 clubs up and down the UK. Working with Andy’s Man Club, we hope to provide support to those who need it, resources to our clients and end the stigma attached to mental health.