As more discuss their struggles, it reduces the stigma around mental health. The prevalence of anxiety and depression at all levels of our society gives individuals who are struggling a network of understanding peers to communicate with.
Recently, a long-time employee called me and expressed struggles around their mental well-being. I don’t know that this person would have felt comfortable sharing this at work a year or two ago, but I’m so glad they did. Thanks to launching the Start the Conversation program in Ohio last year, I was prepared to handle the phone call. I saw first-hand that the program increased our levels of psychological safety and trust amongst the team. It also brought our company’s Care for Life value to the forefront of the conversation.
Biggest lessons learned
As a manager, peer, and employee at a global construction and development company, here are some things I’ve learned since the launch of our Start the Conversation program:
- Have open conversations about the prevalence of mental health struggles and how they can impact workplace safety. This kind of open dialog can empower workers to speak up about their own challenges and bring awareness to colleagues who might be struggling so they can access resources for help.
- Provide liberal leave policies and healthcare coverage for COVID-related illnesses. On many jobsites, we have medics who look after the wellness of our team members and provide easy access to care when it’s needed. Regular wellness checks prevent the spread of illness and provide a personal connection to each employee on the job.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance. Give workers time to relax on weekends and evenings by limiting distribution of crucial emails to regular business hours. Support employees vacation plans by ensuring that their responsibilities are covered while they’re away.
- Have lunch or coffee with each of your direct reports. Marking off time on your calendar to spend time with your employees monthly will not only develop a rapport, but it will keep communication lines open.
- Build a culture of respect and support that people can rely on. Providing a psychologically safe working environment will allow team members to feel supported in discussing mental health issues.
- Share the message with trade partners. We have included contact information on how to access mental health assistance within our safety orientation and jobsite signage.
Putting Care for Life into Action
This October, we’re taking the time to recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. If this past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that every person should make their mental health a priority.
At Skanska, we live our Care for Life value every day, whether we’re in an office or on a jobsite. This includes supporting the health and well-being of our employees. I’m proud to work for a company that takes part in Start the Conversation—a program that is truly changing the lives of our team members for the better.