When you’re running your business, the health and safety of your workers is one of the most important things. However, this goes beyond just looking out for their physical wellbeing. Your tradies are your family, and you want to ensure they’re okay in all aspects of their work life.
People talk about the physical health and safety of tradies, and while it’s just as important, mental health doesn’t get nearly as much of a spotlight. But when your team feel their best, they work at their best. That’s why mental health matters as much as physical safety.
But promoting positive mental health goes beyond a slap on the back and a “chin up, mate”. It requires constant effort in raising awareness and showing it’s okay to ask for help. That’s why, for World Mental Health Day, we’ve put together four tips to help you look after your tradies’ mental health and safety in the workplace.
Why promote tradies’ mental health?
One in five Aussies experience mental health problems every year, with depression and anxiety being the most common. It’s also no secret that tradies are at a higher risk of suffering from poor mental health. The suicide rate among tradies is 2.3 times higher than other blokes, and construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace-related accident.
Why is this? Sadly the stigma of looking ‘soft’ still reigns true for many tradies. Only a third are comfortable talking to their boss about mental health issues, and only 25% would talk to a colleague.
While these numbers are worrying there are things that you can do to help minimise risk, reduce stigma and put the mental health of your team first.
How to look out for your team’s mental health
Unite them over a common cause
Throughout the year, there are plenty of fundraisers or events to get behind and promote mental health. Have a fundraising competition for Movember to see who raises the most money, or host a morning tea for mental health at 10:10am on World Mental Health Day.
Rallying the troops behind a shared cause raises awareness of mental health issues, and shows your team that mental health is important. Remember: awareness is the first step towards change.
Lead by example
If you keep a stiff upper lip, your team will do the same. That’s why one of the best ways to promote mental health at work is to openly talk about problems without the fear that you’ll look like a wuss.
Set the example and be transparent about any issues you’re going through, and what you do to manage these issues. This could be during a fundraising event, or even over a beer. For example, because you run your own business, you might feel stressed out about paying the bills or not being there for your family. You could be open with your team about this challenge, and share your own way of dealing with it, whether it’s through meditation using the Headspace app, or by going to therapy.
You could also offer advice on how to spot early warning signs in others. Say you had a former employee who was going through a tough time. You could share the different changes you noticed in them (such as coming in to work late regularly or a change in the quality of their work), how you approached your employee to start the conversation, and how you worked together to help them manage any issues.
Being open and honest shows that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and that you’re there for your team even when they feel like they’re all alone.
Show them where to get help
Your team may not feel comfortable talking about problems with their boss. However, it’s important they know they’re not alone.
There are a lot of resources out there for people experiencing mental health issues, including Lifeline, MATES in Construction and MensLine Australia. Beyond Blue has a guide specifically for small businesses to help you support your team with their mental health. Most of these companies have printable posters you can print and put in the break room so your team know where to go for help.
Address the root of the cause
Depression and anxiety at work are often caused by an underlying problem. Promoting mental health in the workplace is about more than dealing with issues when someone asks for help. You need to walk the walk, and really take on board what your tradies have to say. This means actively doing things in the workplace to address the root cause of a problem, in order to help your team be happy and healthy.
For example, one worker could be depressed because they’re working too many weekends and don’t get to see their friends and family as much as they’d like. Once you’re aware of this, you could look at how to improve work/life balance so everyone gets to spend more time with their kids or mates. This could be by bringing in new technology to make work easier, or bringing in extra hands on deck if you can afford it.
Another tradie might have faced a string of challenges with a particularly difficult customer. This could lead to a build-up of anxiety about their work performance. To address this, you could consider switching them to a different job, or highlighting some examples of their previous good work to remind them that you value them as an employee.
By encouraging open and honest communication with your team, you’ll get more insight into the challenges they’re facing, and everyone can work together to create a healthier work culture.
Building a tradie culture that promotes mental health is a shared effort. By putting your team’s mental health first, you’re helping them feel and work at their best — and making a positive difference in their lives.
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