Why it's important for workers to talk more

Esh Construction is backing the industry-wide efforts to open up the dialogue on mental health, as workers continue to combat the mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, with William Stobbs, the firm’s director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment saying that speaking about mental health anxieties is the best way to alleviate your own concerns.

  William Stobbs Esh Construction’s director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment discusses the importance of talking openly about mental health issues

William Stobbs Esh Construction’s director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment discusses the importance of talking openly about mental health issues

The male-centric construction sector has long-been criticised for not doing enough to support its workers. And with Office for National Statistics reporting that at least one construction worker a day takes their own life in the UK, ahead of Time to Talk Day 2021, I believe more needs to be done to get the conversation going.

I've been with Esh Construction for 17 years and have seen a number of changes brought in to support staff. These days there's more focus throughout the group and wider sector on supporting wellbeing. We want to get the message out to the wider community, to our employees and our subcontractors not to suffer in silence.

It's only really in the last few years that the conversation on mental health has come to the fore. We're all aware of it these days and in the current climate, it's on every news bulletin, which shows great progress.

Here at Esh Construction, we have a team of 37 mental health first aiders, who are trained by MHFA England, who offer support to over 700 employees, we provide regular updates to staff about managing their mental health and openly promote conversation among the workforce. We use site toolbox talks to encourage workers to down tools, learn about the support available and tactics on how they could manage any mental health difficulties they may experience now or in the future.

We're in really challenging times and we have to call on our mental strength to get through it. We must all support each other as we all have various factors at play, whether they are financial, work or relationship orientated.

While the team of mental health first aiders have been unable to hold face-to-face meetings with staff through the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to reach out to team members who are showing signs of mental fatigue.

Our industry is now putting measures in place to reduce this statistic and get workers talking. The Construction Industry Helpline app and the CALMS helpline are actively encouraged by Esh Construction, while we use EmployeeCare to provide access to confidential counselling and work-life services.

We're a responsible employer, so we take the health and wellbeing of all of our employees seriously. We have our own safety campaign, "Everyone Safely Home", which not only signposts people towards information and support but encourage our employees to have these conversations in a safe environment. If people are having mental health issues or general concerns, then it's fundamental to our concerns as well.

Making employees, subcontractors, and anyone visiting sites aware of the support streams is a crucial part of my health and safety role. The COVID crisis has escalated any problems people might have had. I think, personally, we all have our own bits of concern for our family and friends. Maybe we're all calling on our friends for support more than we were previously.

We're encouraging people to have those conversations, even if it's just a couple of minutes to maybe ring someone up and ask how they are doing. If you observe someone at work that doesn't seem to be their normal self, take them away from other people and just have a chat with them. It might be something that's nothing major or serious but, at the end of the day, we must show compassion.

Here at Esh, senior employees have been advised to ring their teams for catch-ups through the lockdown periods. Although this awareness day brings a focus on mental health, we want any conversation to be seen as that, a friendly catch up. This Time to Talk Day, we'd encourage everyone that if you do nothing else, then at least ring two people in your contacts list and check in with them. Whether that's a work colleague, family, or friend, we all need to chat more.

Got a story? Email: