The importance of good mental health
Good mental health is as important as good physical health and a balanced diet
Not prioritising it costs the UK economy approximately £40 billion annually. Sick leave, and the cost of replacing the 300,000 staff who leave are a major factor in this. As well as that, there is a significant cost attached to presenteeism, where people continue to work, but are unable or unwilling to admit their mental health concerns to their employer (only 13 per cent of sufferers feel able to disclose their mental health issues to their managers). This results in low productivity, as well as greater stress on the individual.
Health, Wellbeing and Productivity are closely linked. BuroHappold prides itself on advising clients how to design offices and educational facilities that boost productivity and learning outcomes, through focusing on the health and wellbeing of the people working within them. We have recently led a series of design sprints to explore how we can design universities to better support vulnerable students and staff. Our people-centred approach to the design of just about all building types is among the best in the built environment and BuroHappold were one of the first to have qualified WELL Building Standard accredited professionals as part of our team.
WELL Building Standard is a holistic approach focused on human health (both somatic and mental)
BuroHappold has recognised that we must implement the advice we give to clients and look after the mental health of our staff and leaders if we are to continue to build on our reputation for excellence in design and project implementation.
The increasing recognition of its importance will be a relief to those suffering from mental health problems, and it is vital that BuroHappold Engineering, like many other employers in the UK, work to improve the mental health of its people and leaders. Our journey in this area has already started and is gaining momentum, as we strive to become a more inclusive workplace, where everyone’s contribution is valued. Working in the construction industry, with its high-pressure environment and many deadlines, gives many of us great joy, but it does put a lot of strain on the people working within it.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Mental Health at Work Gateway, created by Mind and Heads Together, and supported by the Royal Foundation. In the course of the launch, they took us through the use of the new website which they have created to help employers throughout the UK support the mental health of their people. It not only helps leaders know what to do on an individual basis if one of their colleagues is suffering, but also provides guidance to companies on how to improve their culture and environment around mental health.
We have trained 22 Mental Health First Aiders for our five UK offices, in a similar way to traditional first aiders they provide the first line of support for our colleagues.
Sarah Prichard, UK Managing Director
With the help of Bath Mind, we have trained 22 Mental Health First Aiders for our five UK offices. In a similar way to traditional first-aiders, these staff members are able to provide the first line of support to people who have concerns about their or colleague’s mental health and point them in the direction of further advice from professionals. However, we need people to feel that they can turn to their line manager for support and have recently started by training all the leadership of the UK Engineering teams in recognising mental health issues in their people and in helping them to build an environment in which everyone is accepted and supported. Regular pilates, yoga, running, massage and meditation sessions take place in our offices, in order to help everyone achieve a better balance and focus on their physical and mental health. This is highlighted in our annual Mental Health Weeks.
Of course, good mental health starts with looking after and being kind to ourselves. As leaders, we must set a good example by taking regular breaks, working reasonable hours, getting regular exercise and taking holidays. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I’m far from perfect. I have a reputation for energy and ‘busyness’ – there is a lot to do as the Managing Director of the UK Buildings group. However, this is fuelled and supported by regular meditation using the Headspace app, and taking a complete break from work and emails whilst I’m on annual leave.
Like the work we are doing in BuroHappold, I’m on a constant journey to improve myself and to support others. I look forward to seeing how far we can take this initiative and have as transformative an effect on our people as we do on our clients’ projects.