Building effective support for mental wellbeing

The pandemic has had a major impact on the mental health of millions of employees, but for people working in construction, the stresses of the last few months have been felt particularly acutely. That’s why Orbit Homes is taking the issue seriously and is committed to building working environments where colleagues can feel comfortable about talking about mental health.

Here, Ray Winney, Construction Director for Orbit Homes East and Jon Love, Construction Director for Orbit Homes South discuss what support is available for Orbit colleagues:…

“Encouraging people in construction to open up about their mental health has historically been a bit of a challenge, but is absolutely vital,” says Ray.

“The pressure of working to a tight construction programme with deadlines to meet has intensified in recent months with the logistics of working within Government restrictions and disruptions to supply chains, making working conditions even more challenging and all of this in the context of an already increased risk of suicide among some site-based workers according to the Office of National Statistics.

“Having personally lost a close friend to suicide, I am all too aware of how crucial it is that we do all we can to get people talking more openly about their mental health.

“Whilst the last few months have obviously presented its constraints in terms of getting out and about to support people face-to-face, we’re committed to doing everything we can to support everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. Via our partnerships with Mates in Mind and The Black Country Blokes we’ve been able to raise awareness of the issue in a relatable way through podcasts and visits to a couple of our sites by guys who have personal experience of issues themselves. I’m also really keen to develop our buddy system so that people have a direct point of contact on site for some support when they need it.

“There’s no avoiding the fact that the industry we work in generates pressure and stress,” adds Jon. “Every day on site we are faced with meeting deadlines in the context of ongoing restrictions, supply issues and in some cases a high turnover of employees. However, despite that we have started making inroads into the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a working environment in which people can feel comfortable to talk about their wellbeing, seek the help they need if they are struggling and not suffer alone in silence.

“As well as the support available to colleagues via our partnerships with Mates in Mind and The Black Country Blokes, our Healthy Mind First Aiders (HMFAs) have all received Mental Health First Aider training and meet once a month to share ideas and to support each other. The HMFAs support with raising awareness across all areas of wellbeing and provide a non-judgemental listening ear to anyone who needs them.”

“Orbit’s mental health awareness and culture has seen an increased in people sharing their struggles recently,” says Ray. “These are guys that five years ago probably would have kept their struggles to themselves, so I am encouraged that things are changing and that the steps we’re taking to encourage people to seek help when they need it are starting to work, making it easier for people to come forward and say ‘I’m not ok’. This is a really crucial first step for people to get the support they need and for us to create a working environment where people can thrive and be their best.”