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How to Improve Mental Health in the Engineering Sector

Women sitting at table looking stressed

The engineering sector is renowned for its innovations, problem-solving capabilities, and contributions to technological advancements. However, beneath the surface of this dynamic industry lies a less visible but equally essential issue - the mental health of its professionals. Engineers can contend with high-stress levels, long working hours, and project pressure, which can impact their mental well-being. The fast-paced industry they work in forces them to be highly productive and so, can be taxing for their emotional well-being.

Based on a recent survey, three-quarters of engineers surveyed said that that their work is stressful, and over half said that workplace stress has had a negative impact on their mental health. The survey, conducted by Professional Engineering, also found that 67% of engineers have gone to work despite feeling mentally or emotionally unwell, and 42.3% have had their work affected by poor emotional well-being or mental health issues.

How Can Leaders Improve Engineers’ Mental Health in the Workplace?

As with most problems, the first step in addressing mental health issues in the engineering sector is acknowledging the problem. Studies have revealed that engineers are at risk of experiencing mental health issues, with a recent survey showing that 78% of engineers reported experiencing high levels of stress regularly. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to comment that stress is a common companion for engineers, however, it is one that can be managed effectively. Leaders should consider promoting stress management programs and provide resources for fitness activities, yoga classes, mindfulness training, or access to counselling services. Engineers can also incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation and exercise into their daily routines. 

As part of a recent virtual panel hosted by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), experts discussed the importance of mental health in engineering. They agreed that leaders need to lead with compassion, with a focus on breaking the stigma that often surrounds mental health in the workplace. A supportive work environment is crucial. Employers should encourage teamwork, effective communication, and peer support. When engineers feel like they are part of a supportive community, they are more likely to thrive both personally and professionally. Studies show that engineers working in collaborative environments are 25% more satisfied with their work and mental well-being.

One panellist from the OSPE explained the importance of showing employees that it’s okay to be vulnerable. He said: “As someone who is not a mental health expert you don’t necessarily need to provide input, sometimes just to invite someone to express so you can listen, sometimes that helps.” Others highlighted the importance of leaders having regular conversations with their team about themselves.

It’s important to check in as a team, to ask how people are doing, and to ensure everyone’s mental health is good. This helps to build trust, which eventually leads to employees feeling safe enough to be open and honest about their mental health in the workplace, especially to leaders who are able to help.

Taking Time to Care for Mental Health

It’s not uncommon for someone to take time out of work for a physical injury. For example, to rest a sprained ankle or to recover from an accident. But this doesn’t happen as often when someone is struggling mentally or emotionally. Laura Milsom, Director of People and Culture at Modern Niagara Group believes that employees and employers should respond to mental health struggles with an appropriate care plan, in the same way they would for a physical ailment.

Due to the demanding nature of engineering projects, sometimes long working hours and tight deadlines are considered the norm. While dedication to one's work is commendable, it's crucial to strike a balance between professional and personal life. Engineers should prioritise their well-being by setting boundaries and taking regular breaks to relax and recharge. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that engineers who maintain a better work-life balance are 35% less likely to experience job-related stress.

Leaders should also encourage their team members to take regular breaks during their workday.  Short breaks can help in reducing stress and improving focus. A quick walk, a few minutes of deep breathing, or even a friendly chat can refresh the mind and increase productivity. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, engineers who take short breaks throughout the day are 25% more productive and less likely to experience mental fatigue.

Seeking Help:

If they are not addressed properly, mental health and emotional struggles can worsen, which is why it’s becoming increasingly important for leaders to provide wellness plans to engineers. Regardless of the cause or extent of the mental health issue, employees should feel equipped to care for themselves and be able to ask for help should they need it.

As for engineers themselves, if they are struggling with mental health issues, seeking professional help is vital. Employers should offer access to mental health services and encourage employees to use them. Remember, it's okay to ask for help when you need it. 

At Redline, our commitment to wellbeing is a cornerstone of our commitment to excellence within the Engineering sector. We ensure that our employees are provided with Employee Assistance Programs that allow them to keep a check on their mental well-being and seek professional help if needed.

We continue to invest in resources, technology, and training, to ensure we are continually capable of delivering the specialist professionals demanded by this dynamic industry. The focus on service and professionalism is as important now as it was four decades ago, these values are bound into the DNA of Redline.

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