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“We encourage all of our employees and people that we work with to really communicate”

Creating a workplace where employees feel that their voices will be heard is vital for Tom Parsons of Olive & Umber, which operates an open-door policy for all staff and sub-contractors. “My mental health has been something that I have battled with my whole life and it is very close to my heart to be able to offer support in the workplace and the wider environment,” explained Tom. “We operate a total open-door policy for everybody within the business and people can come to me, as a first port of call, with any issues. Not everybody takes it up but if you have got issues at home, or financial worries, or whatever it may be, having that sounding board really helps. “Having a good core relationship with all the people in the organisation is very important and is something that we strive to do. We encourage all of our employees and people that we work with to really communicate. Having that opportunity to communicate and to feel that they are being listened to and heard, I think, is invaluable.”

The company offers flexible working practices and Tom believes that understanding people’s individual needs is important to creating a healthy workplace. “Offering flexibility and tailoring your approach to an individual is something that we do as standard practice and
will continue to do as we expand as a company,” he explained. “Feeling that they can come to me and say ‘actually I would like to start a couple of hours later today’ has meant that the retention of staff in our business is great.”

Staff retention, is an unexpected business benefit of the policy, said Tom, along with a more productive workforce. “We have found that it has also been a great tool for us on the commercial side as I feel that we get the absolute best out of our employees and sub-contractors by offering that open-door policy,” he said. “By offering levels of support, generally across the board, not just with mental health issues, our retention is really good, and our productivity is great. I can probably count on one hand how many sick days our guys had last year just from the fact that they want to come to work and they are happy to be there, it is a good environment.”

Tom believes that more needs to be done within the construction industry to promote the importance of positive mental health and to recognise that good mental health is just as important as good physical health. “I think the industry over the last 10-15 years has been hell-bent on keeping people ‘safe’ on job sites from trips and falls and all the rest of it and a massive amount of legislation has been put in place, but when it comes to mental health I don’t think they are even scratching the surface,” he said. “If somebody cuts their hand you see the cut, you can see the blood, you can act accordingly but when it comes to mental health, it can be quite a lonely place for a lot of people if they don’t feel they have got an outlet and it can really go unnoticed.” The industry as a whole needs to be more outward facing, he said.

This article was published in the April / May 2020 edition of Master Builder; the magazine of the Federation of Master Builders. 

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