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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