Workplaces in Australia lose about $11 billion a year due to poor mental among employees. Some $146 million a year is paid out in workers’ compensation claims for poor mental health. As for construction, suicide and suicidal behaviour in the Australian construction industry is estimated to cost $1.57 billion dollars each year. Mental health is a rising workplace safety and health issue in the construction industry that needs to be addressed.
The challenge for companies in managing the workplace mental health of their employees is identifying those who are possibly facing mental health issues early and provide appropriate mental health support and treatment to them as early as possible. Most of the time, employees suffering from work stress or other psychological hazards will not seek help and support until their situations become more serious. Treatment may become ineffective or costly when it comes late, so identify the needs of the employees and provide early intervention is the challenge. In this regard, adopting a digital mental fitness program based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective.
CBT is an effective method of improving mental health and well-being. Our thoughts affect our feelings. CBT provides ways to manage negative thoughts so that they do not turn into negative feelings, which start by negatively affecting our relationships and efficiency and can lead to mental health problems like stress, anxiety, or depression. Traditional CBT is face-to-face by appointment. In contrast, a digital mental fitness program based on CBT can be delivered online, making it accessible to employees anytime anywhere while delivering very much the same effects as traditional CBT.
A multinational construction company in Australia with over 10,000 employees has initiated such a program to support employee mental health well-being.
The program starts with a wellness check by email that is sent to the construction company’s professional employees. It asks five questions based on the World Health Organization Wellness – 5 (WHO-5). For example, it asks users to assess how often they “have felt cheerful and in good spirits.”
Those respondents who show positive results straight away are referred to existing employee wellness programs such as yoga or a Fitbit step challenge. Employees who could benefit from CBT programs are proactively contacted and enrolled into their core program; lasting around four weeks. It has short videos to teach skills based on emotional intelligence and health, such as retraining thinking, mindfulness, values and balance, and stress management.
Each employee is linked to a dedicated phone coach who helps them apply skills to real life challenges. Evidence shows that 89 per cent of employees completed the four-week program, a much higher completion rate than typical wellness programs. Average stress-induced absences for those who completed the program fell from 0.18 days to 0.07 days whereas stress-induced efficiency reduction fell from 0.96 days to 0.56 days over the course of the program. Interestingly, 82 per cent of employees rated that they would be more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work after finishing the program.
Should construction companies consider improving the mental health and well-being of their employees, a digital mental fitness program can be an efficient and effective option for them to consider.
This piece by Dr Carol Hon was originally published on ‘The Sourceable’ April 4th, 2017.