Keeping our health in mind
Mental health isn’t just a modern buzzword, it’s a real issue that affects all of us in one way or another. KAEFER is putting mental well-being at the top of the agenda and taking steps to address this challenge.
The way we work has undergone tremendous changes in a relatively short time. In addition to the shifts towards working remotely we’ve seen just over the last year and a half, we’ve also experienced changes in how digital technology facilitates working as much with our minds as we do with our hands. On top of that, work on site has become even more challenging as a result of new hygiene measures and regulations. Those are just some of the reasons why it has become even more important to consider the mental health and well-being of a workforce.
Step changes in safety
Regardless of whether it’s on a construction site, at an industrial facility, in a corporate or a home office, safety is paramount. To provide for the well-being of each individual at KAEFER, there needs to be a culture of safety at the company. “I would even take the concept of a safety culture one step further,” says Thomas Eickhoff Head of Corporate Health, Safety & Environment, “it needs to be embedded within the culture of the organisation itself, so that it’s an integral part of everything we do.” This has been achieved over time at KAEFER, by making improvements over the last several years to continuously reduce downtime as well as accident levels.
It’s good to talk
“Superficially, health and safety may look like a numbers game, but it’s really about much more than just facts and figures,” Eickhoff explains. “Yes, we’ve done well in terms of reducing accidents and incidents, but especially when it comes to mental health, fostering dialogue and continuously collecting and acting upon feedback is not just important but demonstratively beneficial.” At KAEFER in the UK & Ireland, for example, so-called ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ have been introduced, who act as a first point of call for employees that may be struggling. This initiative has been so well received by staff that it is being implemented across KAEFER in Europe and beyond. The month of May, 2021 will see a series of mental health ‘train the trainer’ sessions in Germany, Spain and Poland, before being rolled out globally. All of these workshops and the associated training materials are tailored to the cultural sensitivities of various markets, providing for the highest levels of inclusivity. These measures raise awareness of the impacts mental health have and contribute towards a culture of openness and dialogue about issues that have often not been given the attention they deserve.
Opening up over a virtual cup of tea
“In times of COVID, that personal touch is more important than ever,” Eickhoff stresses. “A safety culture is built within individuals and needs us to consider health holistically. That’s why I personally find it essential to sit down with the people I work with for a virtual cup of tea and ask how they are feeling.” After a year of manual labour wearing masks or working remotely, this is surely a welcome question. And it ties in to the KAEFER shareholders' commitment to do anything it takes to ensure the health and wellbeing of its workforce. From the top down, it is important not just to understand the impact mental health has upon individuals, but also to learn how we can be open to discussing these issues and recognising the signs when people begin to struggle.
Keeping people healthy and happy is key to keeping people at the company. It’s that simple. And developing an environment in which mental health in particular is fostered goes a long way in achieving that. We’ve all been through a great deal of challenges over the past 18 months and that’s why recognition and action to improve our mental well-being couldn’t have come at a better time.