“Getting people to talk is one of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered in tackling mental health,” says Alexandra. “We have a very robust support package of initiatives in place for our colleagues, but it’s helping them feel comfortable to use it that makes the real difference.
“From the day colleagues join our business we make them aware of the support that is available. Aside from the information shared during induction, posters, banners and hoardings promoting mental health support are visible on all sites and many items of PPE such as hard hats feature vital information such as helpline numbers. Colleagues are also introduced to the mental health first aiders in their region and are made aware of the many social initiatives we run to offer support should they need it.”
“However mental health is a very personal matter” Dan continues “and experience has shown us that individuals often don’t take up the help on offer unless they feel comfortable speaking out. This is a real barrier for businesses such as ours in the construction industry. With a largely transient workforce where site staff move between projects and teams regularly, forming supportive friendships and relationships with others can be very difficult.”
It is this understanding that has led the Lovell team in the London region to implement a series of effective initiatives that are making a real difference in helping colleagues to open up.
Dan continues “we have found that introducing regular informal meet ups and drop ins sessions are a great way to encourage people to take a break and strike up conversations with colleagues.
“Combat to Coffee is an external organisation that visit our sites regularly. Run by ex-service personnel, the team come to site with a coffee van to provide employees with the chance to grab a free hot drink and a pastry.
“As they queue and wait it gives the opportunity for general conversations to start and relationships to be built amongst colleagues that they might not otherwise meet. The Combat to Coffee team are also trained to offer support to colleagues if they wish to speak with them.”
Run by Lovell mental health first aiders, Time to Talk is a similar initiative that provides staff with the opportunity to get to know all colleagues, including mental health first aiders, over refreshments at work. Pizza Thursdays are also a popular event, bringing people together over food in a more relaxed social environment.
“By creating opportunities to talk openly with colleagues and meet new people it helps people to build a sense of belonging and improve their general well-being” says Dan. “With previous initiatives we found that if we made more formal events which centred on simply talking about mental health, people were less engaged and willing to come forward. There seemed to be a stigma around reaching out and colleagues were reluctant to be seen taking part. By creating informal opportunities to talk it has helped to open up the conversation and bridge that gap so people feel more confident to reach out if they need to.”
“It is a process which is constantly changing,” adds Alexandra who also attributes other social events such as virtual quizzes and fundraisers to the region’s success of building inclusion within the team and prevent feelings of isolation.
“We’re constantly evolving and adapting our approach, focussing on creating relationships amongst our teams to ensure that individuals feel they have the space they need to talk - whether that is with a stranger, a colleague or a friend.
“Facilitating good mental health is an important part of working life. Building an inclusive social environment where colleagues feel listened to is helping to break down barriers here in London and open up important conversations that otherwise could go unheard.”
If poor mental health is something you are struggling with, or you are concerned about the welfare of a colleague or family member, we urge you to speak up and access the support you need. Our helpline can be reached by calling 0800 0280199 at any time of day or night.