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May 28, 2020

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Coronavirus in construction

Multiplex – Protecting the mental health of employees during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way we function as a society. In this article, we hear from Martin Wilshire, Health & Safety Director at Multiplex, about how the firm has had to act quickly and responsibly to ensure it is following the government’s guidance on how businesses and employers can help to limit the spread of the virus.

Martin WilshireThe World Health Organization warned earlier this month, that mental health and wellbeing must be a priority. For Multiplex and the construction industry as a whole, this is even more important. A new report by the Chartered Institute of Building found that 26% of construction industry professionals thought about taking their own lives in 2019.

The health, safety and wellbeing of everyone working on our projects is paramount throughout the pandemic. We know the pandemic brings with it added stresses for our employees – caring responsibilities, health concerns, financial worries – and are doing all we can to support them during this time. We have also strived to support the broader community, in particular the NHS and other emergency services wherever possible.

Supporting employees with their wellbeing

We understand that these unprecedented times and the isolation that comes with working remotely can place our people under increased pressure. This is why we have continued to offer mental health support to all of our employees.

At Multiplex, we focus on the holistic positive wellbeing of our people, which includes both physical and mental health. We also believe in proactive intervention and we have actively contributed to the industry’s Building Mental Health working group, which has helped us develop an excellent mental health and wellbeing programme. We now have 120 trained Mental Health First Aiders who form part of our wider occupational health and positive wellbeing programme and an in-house MHFA England qualified trainer. Many of employees, their families and our supply chain have benefited from our wellbeing programme over the years and it is never more important than now.

Having regular catch-ups with colleagues during this time is important so anyone who may need extra support has the opportunity to come forward. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England has some useful tips on how to stay connected with colleagues while working remotely. Taking inspiration from this, we are encouraging our teams to keep in touch with each other through the use of platforms such as Yammer and Microsoft Teams. We also set up a Yammer page specifically for COVID-19 where people can ask questions, chat with each other, and get information about assistance programmes.

At a challenging time like this, effective communication is crucial. Our senior leaders have been sending regular video updates to the business to update employees on ongoing works and encourage people to stay in touch with each other while working from home or on furlough.

Moving forwards

We know there is a lot of fear around the spread of the COVID-19 in the industry and we are working hard to ensure our staff and delivery partners are provided with the latest updates as we receive them. As well as information about the assistance and helplines available, the new online induction process we have created is designed to give people all the information they need to understand the COVID-19 safety measures we have implemented on our projects so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to restart work before they return to site.

All Multiplex employees and their spouses have continued access to our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which we have been providing for many years. It offers people free support from trained mental health professionals and can put them in touch with mental health services where necessary. Our EAP also offers free financial advice.

Across all Multiplex operations we are using technology, such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, to minimise the need for face-to-face contact. This includes holding meetings as conference calls and online (instead of onsite) inductions. This is also a great medium for those working at home to feel less isolated and regular team meeting are encouraged across all your departments.

We are monitoring people’s behaviour onsite to assess how they are coping with the social distancing requirements and changes to the work environment so we can help them adjust to the major changes that have been made. This allows us to assess what is working and what can be improved so we can adapt our sites and processes accordingly. It also means we can assist and signpost anyone who may be struggling

At Multiplex, our focus remains on proactive prevention and genuinely supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our people. Continual collaboration with our industry partners is key to success because it provides a platform for widespread change across the industry. There is still a long way to go, but the work we have put in to date to make this programme beneficial for everyone who works with us has helped greatly in these difficult times.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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