Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Opinion

Mental health key as covid restrictions return

2 November 2020 | By Mark Beard

Staying positive and healthy and encouraging your teams to do the same is key to negotiating the next few months of semi-lockdown, says Mark Beard

People who grasp difficult issues head-on deserve admiration and it was absolutely typical of my predecessor Professor Charles Egbu, that he should choose mental health as the main theme for his presidential year, bringing to our attention what we can all do to minimise the causes of mental health problems and deal with the issues when they occur.

When Professor Egbu became CIOB president in June 2019, little could he have known that 2020 would be dominated by the consequences of covid-19 and how appropriate his year highlighting mental health issues would be.  

Most of us found a way of surviving the March-June national lockdown, remaining healthy and keeping our spirits up – spirits substantially restored by looser restrictions during July, August and September.

The retightening of the restrictions has been a blow to the spirits. But it is important to maintain positive thoughts. As leaders, we have the dual responsibility of looking after ourselves, while looking after those that work for us. Most people expect their leaders to be optimistic about the future and as team leaders our body language sets the tone for our business working environment.

Maintaining a positive working environment will maximise staff wellbeing and minimise the risk of mental health problems as we navigate through the next six months and beyond.  There is no better tonic than feeling the positive mood of teams radiate around offices and sites.  

At Beard, we are having open discussions with our directors about their work/life integration and how they plan to remain positive and healthy.  Likewise, they are having open discussions with their teams about their work and wider issues, ensuring a good level of personal contact and variety each day, wherever possible, minimising long periods of staring at the same computer screen. That is all coupled with regular positive feedback for each week successfully navigated.

Avoid unnecessary pressures

More broadly, the best way to minimise the risk of mental health problems is to avoid unnecessary work pressures caused by poorly developed designs, unrealistic project programmes and unnecessary arguments over payment and the like.  

Achieving these basics for our staff and supply chain will be more important than ever over the next six months.  It was great to have achieved Investors in People Health and Wellbeing accreditation one year ago – now for the real test of how much we really value staff and supply chain wellbeing.

Everyone has their own ways of navigating the next period of semi-lockdown, dark nights and the onset of more widespread ill health.  Whatever role you play, please do all you can to put family, friends and work colleagues in a winning place and keep all avoidable mental health issues to a minimum.

The CIOB Academy has recently announced its first CIOB Mental Health in Construction MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This is a really good free tool and a great aid
in developing your personal strategy for staying healthy.

Stay positive, stay safe, stay well.

Mark Beard is CIOB president and chairman of Beard Construction

Comments

Mike,

I love this piece, especially the bit on valuing staff and looking after their wellbeing, as well as our own. Its not about beating your chest it is about showing true leadership in testing times.

I agree that it vital we find the positive elements and share these with staff and close colleagues, which in turn will reflect back and help the leadership teams when they are struggling.

The world isn’t ending it is just changing, lets adapt to it

Paul Fitzpatrick, 3 November 2020

I think the real point in this article is contained within the following quote:

“It was great to have achieved Investors in People Health and Wellbeing accreditation one year ago – now for the real test of how much we really value staff and supply chain wellbeing”

Todays PMI figures and commentary (some quotes provided below) provide a general impression of what is going on within the industry and it paints a picture which is unfortunately all too familiar despite the good intentions.

“Supply chain difficulties persisted in October, as
signalled by a sharp lengthening of delivery times for
construction products and materials. Purchasing prices
increased as a result of demand outstripping supply for
construction inputs, with the rate of cost inflation hitting
an 18-month high in October”

” Supplier delivery times acted as a drag on completion as builders rushed to finish work in hand and meet new build requests”

“The largest blot on the landscape was the number
of redundancies and job shedding reported by
construction firms”

An increase in the number of new enquiries and orders, delays in the supply of goods, inflationary pressures on already tight margins at the same time as redundancies and job shedding is not a good combination, particularly at a time when many of the larger firms are trying to appease shareholders by re-introducing dividends and repay furlough payments.

The way ahead ( if the “real test” is to be successful) is surely to attempt to change the culture and relationship between clients, consultants and contractors. If wellbeing is to be addressed in any meaningful way. There needs to be a greater understanding of the pressures on all sides and a willingness to address these pressures in a collaborative way embracing the opportunities that new procurement methods, early involvement of contractors/key suppliers/subcontractors and technological advances have to offer.

Rod McLennan MRICS, MCIOB, FHA, 5 November 2020

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