03 March 2023

How can people professionals help improve manufacturing employees' mental health?

Imagine yourself in an environment where you continuously hear the sound of machines running or that irritating crumpling of plastic bags. Imagine carton boxes being dragged across the floor nonstop or machine parts rubbing against each other. If just the thought of it has irked you, what about the manufacturing industry workers who spend their whole day working in such environments? 


A peek at the sad reality of what factory workers go through:


Studies have shown that manufacturing workers are dealing with a mental health crisis, with the rate of suicides on an upward trend. The stories about Foxconn suicides still echo across the globe. Several production workers employed at numerous factories set up in the Foxconn Industrial City of Shenzhen, China, committed suicides due to harsh working conditions and low pay rates.


But this is not all. These workers are often victims of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. The Fuller Project, a platform that raises voices for women's rights, brought to light the condition of women working in a garment factory in Lesotho, Africa. The story claims that factory workers there have lived in fear for years and have faced physical abuse and harassment.  


Women in the manufacturing industry:


The above shows the plight of factory workers around the globe. Though the manufacturing industry is male-dominated, the number of women has risen over the last decade.  


The COVID-19 pandemic somehow worked as a catalyst. On the one hand, when people were going jobless, on the other hand, more women started showing interest in entering the manufacturing industry. 


Allison Grealis, the president and founder of the Women in Manufacturing trade association in the U.S., shed light on the representation of women in the manufacturing industry. She says women are not only working at the ground level but are also taking all different types of positions across the board. They are taking over leadership roles, working in sales and marketing, carrying out administrative functions, and much more.


Good news? Undoubtedly yes. But there are increasing concerns about the mental wellbeing of employees in the manufacturing industry. Figures show that talent scarcity in the industry is growing. And some of the driving factors are poor mental health, hard-working environments, and lack of employee bonding.


What can people professionals do for the wellbeing of manufacturing workers?


A study by Deloitte, a professional services network, clearly points out that executives may need to balance goals for the retention of employees, culture, and innovation in their workplaces. It says the factors that can contribute to overcoming talent scarcity are wellbeing, modern facilities, and career mobility, among others.


#1 Talk openly about mental health:


In order to get rid of stigmas associated with mental health, the World Economic Forum says that being open about mental health can help create a better work culture


Executives and professionals who prioritize launching programs and talking openly about mental health play a critical role in the wellbeing of their employees. WeForum shared several stories describing how professionals talking about mental wellbeing helped make their employees feel at ease.


#2 Wellbeing policy at work:


A study showed that 51 percent of participants said they would quit their jobs if employers ignored their mental wellbeing. Some 55 percent of respondents said they are more likely to work with a company having a supportive mental wellbeing policy.


The pandemic has highlighted the significance of focusing on strategies and policies that take care of employees; mental wellbeing. Amid the pandemic, unprecedented damage happened, apart from the loss of life. People felt emotionally drained, the economic crisis brewed, people went jobless, and sectors, such as tourism, were completely shut down for a good amount of time.


It is the need of the hour to put people at the very center of decision-making to help retain top talent, low turnover, and have happy employees. This also includes pay parity and sustainable income.


#3. Implementing a mental health program:


A paper on "the impact of good mental health" demonstrated that all industries face significant financial losses due to the poor mental health of their employees. It also stressed the need to invest in mental health programs, both for the sake of employees and business companies. 


The results from over 40 large manufacturing companies showed that 69 percent of the companies couldn't easily access the mental health metrics that matter most to them. It underlined that there is a real human and financial toll associated with not understanding what would work best to improve employees' mental wellbeing.


The paper clearly stated that interventions that lead to the remission of clinical mental health symptoms, such as poor sleep and anxiety, will most effectively lower company costs.


Another 2022 study by Fisher Phillips shows 41 percent of manufacturing employers say mental health challenges negatively affected employee retention efforts in the last two years.


The above highly underscores that employers find themselves at the crux of the problem of effectively managing their employees' mental wellbeing. 


In short, investing in a wellbeing program can ensure a greater output, low employee turnover, retention of top talent, and create a healthy work culture.


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