Throughout the month of June, we’ve considered some complex challenges frontline workers face within their industry. We’ve explored how creating a culture of workplace safety is critical to employees’ physical safety. And last week we shared strategies to proactively prevent injuries on the job. However, there is another lesser-known issue that is equally important to the safety and wellbeing of frontline workers: mental health.
While mental wellbeing has become a popular topic in recent years, it’s a subject that’s rarely discussed in regard to frontline workers. The pandemic shifted many office workers to begin working from home—but what about those who still had to come to work in-person every day? Workers in the construction, manufacturing and transportation industries were impacted differently and faced their own unique mental health challenges.
The mental health disparity between frontline workers and their corporate counterparts existed long before the pandemic. One in five construction workers struggles with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, according to Industry Research. A study published in Epidemiology found that frontline workers were more likely to be treated for depression than corporate workers.
With frontline workers at a higher risk of suicide and mental health issues, it’s imperative to de-stigmatize and improve mental health for individuals in these industries. Here are three strategies to promote mental wellbeing for frontline workers:
1. PROVIDE TRAINING AND EDUCATION
To make progress in de-stigmatizing mental health, it’s important to first be educated on mental health issues. There’s a wealth of resources you can utilize to educate frontline workers.
For construction companies, take advantage of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) online training program and behavioral health screening.
Another form of training is teaching workers how to recognize the signs of someone struggling with their mental health. According to CIASP, the following signs of severe anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts can be especially noticeable on the job site:
- Decreased productivity
- Increased conflict among co-workers
- Near hits, incidents, and injuries
- Decreased problem-solving ability
- Increased tardiness and absenteeism
Integrating education and training into your workplace culture will help equip workers to know the signs and how to respond and foster a culture of mental health awareness in your organization.
2. DEVELOP A HOLISTIC WELLBEING STRATEGY
In addition to training and education, leaders within these industries should also develop a holistic wellbeing strategy. This involves promoting key resources, creating a culture of care and empathy and distributing key resources.
In the post-pandemic business world, demonstrating a caring culture for employees will be both an expectation and an imperative. More organizations are beginning to take a holistic approach to wellbeing by creating a strategy that integrates multiple areas of wellbeing: physical, mental, and financial.
MJ’s Total Rewards program may be just the solution you need. Total Rewards is a strategy that blends compensation, benefits, retirement and wellbeing programs into a completely unique offering. Our benefits consultants can help determine the best wellness offerings and programs that best suit your needs and goals.
This holistic strategy is not only reserved for office workers in the corporate world but should be essential to every type of organization – including those that employ frontline workers. With this demographic of workers being at a higher risk for mental health issues and suicide, it’s even more important to develop a holistic wellbeing strategy.
3. ENHANCE YOUR EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Frontline workers often experience fluctuations in their schedules due to seasonal changes, weather and economic downturns. These factors can lead to layoffs, which increases stress related to the loss of income and sometimes the loss of medical benefits and/or access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
If your company does not have an EAP, commit to instituting one to help address the needs of all employees. If your company does have an EAP, the information must be easily accessible for workers. Enough barriers to accessing care already exist, so take the initiative to pave the way when someone is reaching out for assistance. Eligibility must be spelled out and communicated (i.e., employee and dependents, or expanded coverage for other family members, etc.). Policies should be set on including the EAP in the open enrollment and onboarding processes.
Additionally, check your EAP’s utilization rate and the types of services that your employees access. This report can help identify ways to increase the use of your EAP program, such as:
- Communicating the eligibility of work/life balance and behavioral health services available through the EAP.
- Instituting managerial, supervisory, and employee training to educate your entire workforce about the purpose, features, and benefits of the EAP.
- Deploying proactive communication strategies, including sharing various modes of access, to promote use of the EAP.
- Including information about the EAP in your new hire orientation packet, open enrollment packets, and informational sessions about health and other employee benefit programs.
We hope our National Safety Month series has been helpful for you as you consider ways to improve workplace safety in your organization. For assistance with building a workplace safety plan and a Total Rewards strategy for your business, contact MJ today.CONTACT MJ