Manufacturing and engineering workers' mental health declines by 10%


Thursday, 21 October, 2021

Manufacturing and engineering workers' mental health declines by 10%

October is Mental Health Month, and new research from mental health not-for-profit WayAhead has shone a light on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our mental wellbeing.

The study found that the mental wellbeing of Australians in the field of manufacturing and engineering has suffered, recording a 10% decline since the start of the pandemic. Manufacturing and engineering workers ranked the lockdown (52%) as the primary factor negatively affecting their mental health. This was followed by a lack of connection with friends and family (45%) and health concerns (38%).

Mental health and wellbeing — just like physical health — can change and be altered over time. Those employed in manufacturing and engineering have noticed physical and emotional changes, with an increase in negative thoughts (55%) as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns the highest in any industry sector. Over half (55%) have experienced an increase in feeling stressed and anxious and 41% have seen an increase in feelings of loneliness.

Stephanie Thompson, Workplaces Program Lead at WayAhead, believes that while the research findings are concerning, it shows why now more than ever we need to ‘tune in’ to our mental wellbeing — the theme of this year’s Mental Health Month.

“No matter what industry or sector you work in, the pandemic and various lockdowns have impacted and shifted our mental wellbeing,” she said. “The important thing to remember is that it’s completely normal and natural to feel stressed, not functioning at your best and to be a little anxious about the future. We encourage you to tune in to your feelings and senses, and understand that everyone is different and will move along the mental wellbeing spectrum. Whilst we all experience this, there is a point where stress tips over into mental distress, and it is vital to remain tuned in to yourself, and seek support when needed.”

The research also revealed how the pandemic has affected our work life. Those in the manufacturing and engineering sectors reported a 34% decline in productivity, just under a quarter (24%) found they couldn't switch off at the end of the day and over a third (38%) had difficulties concentrating and focusing.

As we begin to explore the changes to our working arrangements and the possibility of returning to the office, the study highlighted the activities that have boosted mental wellbeing. Half (52%) of manufacturing and engineering workers used exercise and the hit of happy hormones to improve their wellbeing. Speaking to friends and family (41%) also improved their state of mind, while a third (34%) tried their hand at cooking.

“For employees it is important to recognise and develop strategies for maintaining mental wellbeing and balance,” Thompson said. “Celebrating achievements, no matter how big or small they seem. Find the time to tune in and connect with others and make time for the activities that make you feel good, relaxed and re-energised.”

Over three-quarters (76%) of manufacturing and engineering workers indicated they would not feel comfortable speaking to their employer about mental health, with over half (59%) noting they are afraid it will negatively impact their job if they discuss their mental health concerns.

“This Mental Health month, we are encouraging employers to be open and lead with empathy,” Thompson said. “Be mindful that each employee is likely to be having a different emotional experience. Providing access to mental health resources and acknowledging the implications that the pandemic has had on mental health and wellbeing can be a good place to start to help reduce stigma.”

The website www.mentalhealthmonth.wayahead.org.au features resources and practical advice for people and organisations to improve mental health.

Image: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Urupong

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