Jason Webb, director of thermometer specialist, Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI), details how his company is looking out for all staff, as the after-effects of the pandemic begin to manifest:
The pandemic has impacted everyone, be it physically, psychologically, or financially. For those working in the manufacturing sector, part of the enjoyment of working on the factory floor comes from collaborating with colleagues. Yet, to comply with social distancing measures, the stereotypical ‘banter’ over a cup of tea whilst debating the weekend’s football results was cruelly snatched away from workers in an instant. This was the time when they would let off steam; some sort of therapy if you will.
In March 2020, things changed almost immediately. Like others in the manufacturing space, we simply had to continue making and exporting our products. To ensure business continuity, our production lines and factory floor were reconfigured for social distancing and health and safety purposes. This meant that it was harder for workers to chat, even over tea breaks. Faced with this unwanted change and the uncertainty from Covid, we quickly saw some cracks in the workforce when it came to mental health. In fact, we noted that some who we initially thought were in a good place, were struggling.
As a director, you get used to working on your own. It can get lonely, but you soon become accustomed to what the role entails. For those on the factory floor, however, this change all happened so suddenly. When it comes to mental health, recent reports showed that manufacturing workers cited missing their usual routine (41%), spending more time alone (30%) or finding it hard to concentrate (30%) as their main worries.
We made the decision to place 30 of our staff through specialist mental health training with The Mad and Sad Club. This now enables our staff to identify when someone might be struggling and to signpost them in the right direction to get the help they need. We have always been a supportive community at ETI, and it will stay that way. We know we aren’t therapists, but we do have an obligation to keep the welfare of our staff at the front of mind. If they need support, then they know they can ask and be listened to.
Our management team now works even closer with supervisors and team leaders who interact daily with the workforce, and who might be more approachable for someone who is struggling or does have a problem. It also places them in a position to identify any warning signs and opens up a channel of communication for someone on the factory floor who might be concerned about a colleague.
Things are slowly starting to return to normal, yet the workforce will still need support. Whilst some are coming to terms with what’s happened over the past year, some have seen their own health impacted, some have even lost loved ones to Covid. Addressing mental health shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise for any organisation. Treat employees with the care and respect they deserve, and they will do the same for your customers. Our workforce has been through a lot. The least they can expect is that their employer and colleagues are looking out for them.