The economic cost of Covid-19 across all industries and markets has been huge, the impact on people’s wellbeing immeasurable. The pandemic, lockdowns and subsequent isolation will have serious repercussions upon the mental health of individuals for months or even years to come. 

The Oil and Gas industry has not escaped. What has the economic and business impact meant for our employees and their mental health and wellbeing? 

In this article, I look at the mental health of those working in oil and gas and what you as a leader can do to help your colleagues.

The Covid-19 cost to mental-health

When people face uncertainty in life, it places significant amounts of pressure on them. As the pandemic broke out in 2020, 53% of energy workers surveyed said the pandemic had caused them to worry about job security. Four in ten worried about paying bills, and only 47% were optimistic about the sector’s long-term health. 

Since the pandemic began, workers in the industry have been affected with job losses, hours reduced or had notice of redundancy. This has led to drastic increases in stress and anxiety, with mental health being a huge challenge for employees and for business productivity and staff engagement.

What can leaders do? 

Positive mental health and wellbeing are paramount in sustaining a healthy workplace environment and experience. Happier colleagues are more engaged and more motivated. 

As a business leader, it is vital to take steps to ensure that your staff are able to address their mental health. The view of mental health in the workplace is only understood and improved if it comes from aware and engaged leaders. You need to model behaviours to create a culture where people can thrive. 

As leaders, we can help in the following ways: 

Clear communication

It is vital, especially in times of uncertainty, to maintain clear communication at all levels of the business. 

Communication is essential when it comes to issues such as a change in hours or organisational structure. Also, if workloads need to change, make sure your staff are aware of priorities. They can then better manage their time without panicking about deadlines.

Without regular updates, staff feel in the dark, full of uncertainty and separated from the organisation and its purpose.

Intervene as required 

Leaders and senior managers need to be aware of staff behavioral such as general mood and engagement. If you make it a priority to observe such changes, you can step in and help someone before the situation worsens. Offer an online chat over a cup of tea or check in regularly to make sure that everything is okay.

Meaningful relationships within the workplace create greater job satisfaction amongst everyone.

Be flexible

Now’s the for leaders and business to offer staff a more flexible way of working. Juggling childcare, working from home, and other life pressures can significantly impact a person’s mental health. 

This is not about changing your standards but about accommodating your staff’s needs to help them perform at their best. You have to trust that they will still deliver what you need. 

Employees will feel more enjoyment in their work due to planning their own schedules and controlling their own responsibilities.

Talk about resources

Your employees should be able to reach out and ask for help if they are struggling, but this can often be the hardest step. 

As Steve Beedie, Mental Wellness Trainer and Speaker, said: “Having served 13 years on the drill floor and seeing the changes affect our industry and our people, now more than ever we need to speak and open up just a little bit. It’s only together we’re finding our way through this.”

Make your staff aware of where they can seek help should they need it. Even if your company doesn’t have the resources and staff to give support and guidance, find out where you can access this. This awareness also brings down the barriers around mental health conversations. 

Final thoughts

Mental health should be viewed and treated as you would physical health. As leaders, we can make a real impact on our staff by being aware of the daily challenges it presents and adapting our business practices to support those in need.

If you or someone you know is going through a mental health struggle, some places to get support  are SAMH, Mind, CrisisText, Rethink, and the NHS.

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