CEO, Manufacturing Technologies Association
Perceptions of mental health issues are changing for the better, as more is done to raise awareness of the problem. In the UK alone, mental health problems are estimated to cost employers between £33 billion and £42 billion per year.
Manufacturing and engineering firms are doing more than any other sector to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst their employees, according to a new survey by the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) and Close Brothers Asset Finance.
Work-related stress, depression and anxiety are among the most common forms of mental illness in the workplace.
The survey looked across a range of industries, including food and drink, retail, recruitment and services. It found that 65% of manufacturing and engineering firms are actively taking steps to raise awareness, as opposed to 55% of other sectors surveyed.
When thinking about the future of manufacturing, we often go straight to the image of automated production lines with robots carrying out many of the tasks. It must be remembered that the human element in manufacturing and engineering is the most vital part to the process.
More manufacturing and engineering (50.4%) companies reported that there had been an increase in the number of employees reporting mental health issues in the past three years than the total (37.9%).
We must not forget employee wellbeing when implementing new tech
As much as we depend on technology to improve our productivity, we must also pay the same due care and attention to our employees’ mental health.
Just like a CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control) has preventative maintenance scheduled in to avoid too much down time, we should be looking to implement this same sort of due care to our employees.
The most successful interventions combine primary prevention strategies, such as reducing psychosocial risk factors, with secondary intervention strategies, for example, improving workers’ ability to deal with stress.
Helping employees better understand their emotions and factors that lead to mental health issues can be key to improving employee wellbeing.
Rise in mental health absences in last year helps to destigmatise the concept
Looking at the survey as a whole, it would suggest that mental health issues are more commonplace within the manufacturing and engineering sector with 51% of companies reporting an employee taking time off because of this in the past year.
In other industries this number was still significant at 39%. More manufacturing and engineering (50.4%) companies reported that there had been an increase in the number of employees reporting mental health issues in the past three years than the total (37.9%).
With this increase in mental health issues being reported, we’re also seeing attitudes of employees changing for the better.
More than half (53%) of manufacturing and engineering companies were more likely to have changed their attitude towards mental health than the total (45.2%), which is a huge step in destigmatising the problem and encouraging more people to seek help.
With increased awareness of how mental health affects the workplace among employers, employees and society, so we are better able to understand the issue.
The workplace is the ideal environment to raise awareness of mental health issues and to offer accessible treatments.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point during their working life. It is encouraging to see so many manufacturing and engineering firms are being proactive in tackling the issue among their workforces.