18 October 2021 posted by Recovery Partners

A close second to the COIVD-19 global health crisis is the growing pandemic around mental health.

Recovery Partners were fortunate enough to host Chris Doyle at our Life After Lockdown special online event in October. Not only is Chris the Group Head EH&S at Lendlease, he is also an Ambassador for NSW Government Mentally Healthy Workplaces.

Chris was appointed by the NSW Government in 2020 as one of the 12 NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Ambassadors, promoting psychologically safe workplaces for both white collar and blue-collar workforces.

During the webinar, Chris drew upon his insights and experience with Lendlease. Lendlease has 100 million hours of working data a year across 10 countries to look at and have picked out some interesting trends during the pandemic.

Time pressures lead to incidents

“A project under time pressure is four times more likely to have a major incident occur,” Chris states. Chris explains that in the blue-collar workforce, construction in particular, companies are now trying to make up for lost time.

“The pressures of hours lost during covid and maybe only having 25-50% of workers on site… They’re trying to ramp things up now as we come out of lockdown and get back to 100% of people on site.”

No rest for the blue-collar workforce

“The people who have been carrying the load for the last 20 months, which is mostly the blue-collar work force, there’s no time for a clap and a pat on the back because we’re about to ramp things up and that’s part of the challenge we’re about to see,” says Chris.

“This data [pictured above] gives an interesting snapshot as to where things in NSW were going from a claims perspective in the five years pre-pandemic. There was a 53% increase in psychosocial claims,” Chris tells us.

“What we’re seeing emerging is a shift in where the insurance costs are coming from and it doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just in sectors you might expect like emergency services and police. We’re seeing it across all sectors; education, health, construction, manufacturing and in the office space,” says Chris.

“We do know at the start of that journey it was around 4500 [psychological] claims per year, into FY20 it was looking like 7500 [psychological] claims and now we’ve had this 18 month circuit breaker in our industries, it’s going to be really interesting where we move to as we come out of lockdown. This is a great opportunity to see what happens next,” says Chris.

The Great Resignation

In the US between April and September 2021, 15 million workers quite their jobs. 36% quite with no job to go to. We’re now starting to see some really interesting insights

“Workers have really reassessed their careers and the whole notion of work to live not live to work is actually playing out,” says Chris.

“We now have a different understanding, awareness and acceptance around mental health and psychosocial risk and the workplace needing to be more acceptable and less threatening which is not a bad thing.”

What people are looking for in a return to the office

Chris explains that “What we’ve seen is people want easy desk booking systems, they’re waiting for there to be no masks, they want to have connection with people, they want open plan offices but with distance between them and other people. People are happy not to be five days in the office in the future.”

In New South Wales and Victoria, you’ll probably notice February is going to be more of a turning point when back to school, end of summer holidays and organisations will start to push for more people to return to the office.”

Ask yourself these two questions about wellbeing in your workplace

“There are so many things about the workers in your organisation that you have no control over; from pre-existing medical conditions to home and family lives.”

There are many challenges facing employers as restrictions ease, many don’t even know where to start. Chris recommends you ask yourself these two questions about wellbeing in your workplace:

  1. Is your work a place of connection?

Chris is passionate about organisations being ‘connectors’ when employees bring challenges into the workplace. Your workplace can provide Mental Health First Aid Training, EAP services or additional wellbeing resources.

  1. Are you a place of fairness?

There is still a lot of data showing that the workplace is either the cause of stress or adding to people’s personal stresses. Fairness in the workplace includes issues such as bullying and harassment, employees being spoken down to, and work culture.”

Work to live not live to work

The bottom line? People are no longer accepting poor working conditions. Whether you’re a blue-collar organisation or white-collar organisation, make mental wellbeing a priority. You might find this article useful: Three proven success factors for workplace wellbeing.

You may also found our Mental Health and Wellbeing eBook, developed by our very own psychologists, to be helpful.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/