While the oil and gas industry is known for its rigorous safety standards, the focus is primarily on physical health, with mental health issues overlooked. However, as leaders, we are responsible for ensuring mental health is appropriately addressed in the workplace. The upcoming Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15th May 2022) is a reminder of this and allows us to focus on this topic.
This year, the Mental Health Foundation has picked loneliness as its theme. Loneliness is impacting an increasing number of people in the United Kingdom, influencing our physical and emotional health, particularly throughout the pandemic. Within the oil and gas sector it’s important to also consider the impact of working in remote locations, and the mental strain this causes individuals.
Creating a workplace that values mental health is a massive step toward a mentally healthy society.
Mental Health and Oil and Gas
It has never been more important to recognise the effects of poor mental and physical health in our oil and gas industry. Maintaining strong mental health is essential as it allows individuals to reach their full potential. To drive an effective and powerful workforce, mental health and well-being must be prioritised.
The sector has to examine how it monitors and manages employees’ mental health. To drive significant change, there is a need for greater support and action. However, small steps can be taken to begin to improve the mental health environment, such as talking and being upfront about the daily issues that many workers in the industry face. While our industry offers some of the finest opportunities in the world, it can also be psychologically and physically challenging.
According to a 2019 study by Occupational Medicine, oil and gas workers experience higher levels of anxiety and depression than the general population. Many factors may cause this, but some key issues include pressure at work and loneliness in remote jobs. Workers in this industry are under significant pressure to avoid errors, as their work can have immense repercussions such as death and environmental harm. Furthermore, offshore employees are separated from their families and friends for lengthy periods of time. This separation can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, frustration, and unhappiness with their jobs.
Due to this higher rate of anxiety, depression and loneliness, it is essential to support those in the oil and gas sector. The easiest way for a business or leader to do this is to create a workplace that values mental health. Helping these individuals and supporting mental health will positively impact employees, businesses, and society.
The Impact of Having a Workplace that Values Mental Health
Work is an essential part of many people’s lives. It’s where we spend a lot of our time, earn our money, and meet new people. So, we believe in creating environments where everyone can succeed.
Promoting good mental health at work is also an essential aspect of being a responsible employer that values their workers’ contributions. Forward-thinking employers understand the value of attracting and keeping talented and diverse staff, including employees who may be dealing with mental health issues.
So, workplace management and mental health support should go hand-in-hand. Businesses with high levels of mental wellness are likely to be more productive, as research by the Mental Health Foundation shows that taking care of one’s well-being at work can boost productivity by as much as 12%.
Not only will supporting mental health as an employer impact productivity and show responsibility in a demanding industry, but it can improve staff turnover, reduce sick leave, and increase motivation. Hence, companies in the oil and gas sector must consider ways to support employees, so they do not face severe consequences of having a team with poor mental health.
Actions a Workplace Can Take to Value Mental Health
Both management and employees share responsibility for cultivating and maintaining a mental health-friendly culture. If company leaders are ready to involve their employees in developing mental health initiatives, they may start a serious and meaningful dialogue with their workforce. For this to be effective, it’s important that employees actively participate in the discussions for their personal well-being and the benefit of the business as a whole.
From a management perspective, there are various tools and services available that can support the needs of oil and gas companies. Here are some ways oil and gas companies can support their employees:
- Digital mental health solutions
A huge struggle within the oil and gas sector and mental health is offshore working. Digitalisation provides an excellent opportunity to support workers offshore, as employers can offer support through online counselling programmes. Solutions like this can be accessed at any time and from any location, offering immediate assistance without the significant wait times associated with in-person counselling. They’re also practical, simple to use, and anonymous.
- Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)
An EAP aims to give workers the skills and resources they need to enhance their mental health and achieve a better work-life balance. This will help a company in the long run by resulting in a more productive workforce, improved retention rates, and “happier” or more satisfied employees.
- Create a culture that promotes authenticity and openness
Creating a workplace culture that supports mental health does not have to be expensive. Encouraging an authentic and open culture can drive regular communication about mental health. This initiative should lead from the top of the organisation, to break the silence.
If you or someone you know is going through a mental health struggle, there are several places to get support; SAMH, Mind, CrisisText, Rethink, and the NHS.