Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health has proved to be an even bigger challenge than ever before. It is important to understand the mental health of all employees as it can directly affect their life, work, and productivity. Employers should be equipped with ways to assist them through these problems.
You may not relate the auto industry to poor mental health, however, that is far from the truth. The auto industry is burdened with some of the highest stress and time dependent tasks. These situations can be very damaging to mental health. In 2019, the industry was ranked within the bottom 10% of 19 industries for their mental health score (Manganello, 2019). This is because employees are often judged on productivity, efficiency and output. These statistics come with a lot of pressure. Not only this, but the hours tend to be very long with little recovery time.
Many of these jobs can also be very repetitive and physically demanding. These tasks can lead to not only mental, but also physical safety issues. It is important to keep an eye on them before they become a bigger issue. 22.5% of engineers say they have thought about suicide or self-harm. One out of every three engineers would say their mental health is fair or poor (Lang, 2019). Often employees feel their work is never ending, so it is important for them to see what they are doing is important (Thomas net). If they can see what they are doing leads to something bigger, they will feel more fulfilled.
Stigma in the Field
Although the auto industry struggles so much with mental health, employees often have trouble reaching out. Research supports that in a predominantly male field, there is a stigma that reaching out can appear less strong or manly. A recent poll taken regarding mental health throughout their working life concluded 21% of employees would not talk to anyone about it. The main reason being that they were worried people would treat them differently if they did (twinfm).
Often when they do reach out, the validity of the issue is questioned. Unlike a physical injury, it cannot be proven or seen (Manganello, 2019). However, times are changing, and people are becoming more aware of the importance of mental health. It is crucial to understand that there are still stigmas, and we need to do our best to veer away from them.
Learning to Overcome these Challenges
Not only is the auto industry a key example of poor mental health, but it can be a good example of how to fix it. We can learn so many mental health skills just from looking at the engineering process. Engineers are equipped with such great imagination and resourcefulness (Lang, 2019). If this mentality were applied to the mental health sector, our state of mind would be in a much better place.
A great example lies within an automotive company in Japan. They use a process called the “Lean Manufacturing System”. This system checks the quality of the product throughout the process and if it falls below standard at any point, the process is stopped. This is to ensure there are no defective products and that the system is fixed before it will start producing parts again. (Boland, 2016). While they specifically used this for the manufacturing process, a healthcare provider, Virginia Mason, was inspired by it and adapted their own version of this system. They implemented this process into their mental health care procedure and reported that it had many benefits (Boland, 2016).
If we continue to address the importance of mental health and work together, the industry could see much improvement. This could not only better mental health, but also productivity in the workplace. Using the engineering process as an example, we can create a new “language” for people to talk about the steps to reach our goal (Boland, 2016). Companies also need to understand that their employees have full lives outside of work. Making sure their workers feel the company cares about them and that they recognize their achievements can make all the difference (Manganello, 2019). Communication and understanding are key when it comes to improving the mental health of those in this demanding and competitive industry.
BenTrade Limited. (n.d.). Mental health and wellbeing for the automotive industry. Ben Training. https://ben.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Mental-BenTraining-leaflet.pdf.
Boland, B. (2016, July 18). What can mental health services learn from the automotive industry? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/views-from-the-nhs-frontline/2016/jul/18/mental-health-services-learn-automotive-industry.
Lang, F. (2019, October 3). Mental Health Crisis Is Hitting the Engineering Sector Hard. Interesting Engineering. https://interestingengineering.com/mental-health-crisis-is-hitting-the-engineering-sector-hard.
Lusty, A. (2020, June 23). It’s time for engineering to get serious about mental health . Global Banking & Finance Review. https://www.globalbankingandfinance.com/its-time-for-engineering-to-get-serious-about-mental-health/.
Manganello, K. (2019, May 29). Improving Mental Health in the Industrial Workplace. Thomasnet® – Product Sourcing and Supplier Discovery Platform – Find North American Manufacturers, Suppliers and Industrial Companies. https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/improving-mental-health-in-the-industrial-workplace/.
TWinFM. (2020, October 15). Mental Health Concerns in Construction and Engineering. TWinFM. https://www.twinfm.com/article/mental-health-concerns-in-construction-and-engineering.