That’s why they call it the blues

January 20, 2020

What RSK is doing to tackle Blue Monday

The third Monday, dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, in January, this year falling on the 20th, serves as a timely reminder of the significance of mental health issues in the workplace. Factors like cold or wet weather, fewer sunshine hours, money worries after Christmas, general post-Christmas blues, shelved New Year’s resolutions and low motivational levels all collide in a perfect storm. Unsurprisingly, it can also trigger wider mental health issues.

Although mental health is now getting a much higher and more sympathetic profile in the workplace, it can still be something that employees feel their employer may not understand, often out of fear that it may affect their career prospects. RSK’s internal analysis has shown that men tend to take much longer than women to share a mental health problem. Typically, this means that the problem is much more serious and advanced before help is sought. Workers in the construction and engineering industry often also feel unable to talk about their experiences because of a ‘hard-hats, hard-hearts’ attitude.

Therefore, RSK wants to do more to remove the stigma associated with mental health. We want to ensure that every employee feels comfortable seeking support and has someone they can trust and speak to about their mental well-being. RSK employees can speak to human resources, a colleague or manager or specialised support services, such as counselling or confidential helplines. To support this, well-being became a formal part of RSK’s 2017 business plan.

Since 2017, RSK has implemented a mental well-being strategy to spread awareness of mental health and well-being, provide internal and external sources of support, and to create a positive mental health culture. We began our strategy by taking part in national and international awareness campaigns, such as World Mental Health Day, Time to Talk Day and the Time to Change “Ask Twice” campaign. While raising awareness is a proactive step, we want to instil the culture into our company and build an internal mental health support network.

Internal support

Over the last year, we have set up an internal network of more than 50 well-being champions, made up of employees across the business who are delivering a range of well-being events, initiatives and resources. We also added to this community by training staff in mental health first aid. Our mental health first aiders are trained to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health, understand how to approach someone in crisis and non-crisis situations, and to direct people to appropriate professional support. Moving forward, we aim to have a minimum of one trained mental health first aider in every office (136 locations) to support our rapidly expanding business. We also want more site-based employees trained to provide access to support for those regularly working out of the office.

Although we are still at the early stages of implementing changes, we are already seeing employees becoming more comfortable talking about mental health – whether that’s coming forward with their experiences or providing support to colleagues. Team meetings that usually start with a SHEQ (safety, health, environment and quality) moment are also being used as an opportunity to talk about mental well-being and pressures that employees are experiencing. To encourage these conversations, we recently launched RSK SHEQ playing cards, which aptly include a hearts suit dedicated to well-being safety moments. Additionally, senior managers have also made a conscious effort to share any mental health issues they have experienced. We have had situations where employees have emailed their team saying that they are suffering from mental health issues, only to be overwhelmed in turn by others coming forward to share similar issues and offers of support.

It’s time to change

The positive mental health culture culminated in RSK’s latest initiative: signing the Time to Change employer pledge. Joining a growing movement of more than 900 employers in England, the pledge demonstrates that we have a solid action plan in place to support mental health in the workplace. As well as being signed by RSK’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Ryder and Human Resources Director Zoe Brunswick, we created an RSK Time to Change puzzle with eight pieces: one for each of our six operating divisions, one for our central support functions and one that includes the RSK and Time to Change logos. All 3600 employees were invited to sign the pledge and symbolise the uniting of all RSK businesses to end the mental health stigma. The puzzle is now on display at RSK’s headquarters in Helsby, UK.

There is, of course, still a lot to do to remove the stigma associated with mental health. But, by choosing to be open about mental well-being, we are showing our employees that support is available this Blue Monday.