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How Manufacturing Organisations Can Balance Employee Wellbeing and Efficiency

The global manufacturing industry has and will continue to face a unique set of challenges, from rising energy costs to changing regulatory standards. Throughout the years, companies in the industry have also had to contend with issues regarding retaining high-performing talent1. According to the International SOS Risk Outlook 2023, 35% of stakeholders within the manufacturing industry believe that mental health is most likely to negatively impact productivity this year. Faced with this situation, it has never been so vital for organisations and managers to uphold their Duty of Care responsibilities, safeguarding the mental health and wellbeing of their workforces in these challenging times.

Facing Challenges
Recovering from the crises of the past few years will be no small task. The COVID-19 pandemic had a worse impact on the manufacturing sector than the 2008 global financial crisis, with a reported fall in production of 6.8% in 2020 – in part attributable to the mass disruption global supply chains experienced1. Even as the worst effects of the pandemic subside, the nature of the work in the industry is still creating high levels of stress, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties for employees because they engage in high-risk activities that require focus and precision.

Relevant organisations should understand how serious this situation is and strive to identify the hidden dangers of mental health in their workplace and proactively support their workforce’s mental health and wellbeing – as well as countering more obvious physical risks. It is crucial to create a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace so people can deliver the best quality work. This task is obviously important for lots of different industries, but it is particularly important for those in the manufacturing sector as employees are exposed to unique risks as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Using Expertise to Drive Resilience
The pandemic has highlighted the importance for organisations to have access to credible expertise to guide them in decision making around working arrangements, vaccine mandates, returning to offices or sites and protection of vulnerable employees. Many organisations were reliant on external experts as they are likely to have early visibility of emerging health and security trends. They are also best able to advise on what other organisations are doing within their specific industry, or beyond, to help set benchmarks.

Manufacturing organisations can also benefit from external expertise that provides tactical guidance and advisory services. The delivery of an integrated health and security solutions, such as medical staffing, pandemic preparedness and planning, remote healthcare support, intelligence analysis and risk management will help to address on-site risks and ensure sustainable business operations. Having access to external expertise when conducting a site review, often provides organisations with more detailed analysis on the geopolitical climate and crime situation in their area of operation which they would otherwise not have the knowledge of.

Building a Mental Health Agenda Onsite

Mental health is another area where expert external advice is often sought.4 The impact of mental health issues within workplaces has noticeably increased in recent years and is negatively affecting employee productivity levels. While employee mental health support is an increasing topic of significance on organisation agendas, more work is still needed to enact real change. Across the manufacturing industry, it was revealed that depression and anxiety in the workplace effects 1 out of 5 workers, while only 5% of organisations in this sector will increase their mental health support by a lot2. These findings highlight that there is still a lack of focus from manufacturing organisations to create meaningful improvements to employee wellbeing.

Understanding the unique stressor impacting employees, providing workforces with resources available to address mental health issues and determining how their organisation culture supports positive mental health are some of the strategies organisations can also implement to create a positive workplace. The top three factors that enhance work experience according to manufacturing employees include their overall wellbeing, the flexibility in where and/or when they work and the technology they use daily5. To address this growing importance in employee wellbeing and support their workforce, many manufacturing executives are planning to provide employees with extended time off, new working schedules and enhanced parental leave5.

Although the challenges faced by the manufacturing industry are clearly substantial, businesses should be prepared to face them head on. They require proactive action, being on the front foot to ensure that employees are protected today to bring prosperity in the future. Through decades of experience in health, security risk management, safety and wellbeing solutions, International SOS has supported clients within the manufacturing industry to safeguard their employees and operations. This support will continue to come, as often the insight and guidance of third-party experts can be very beneficial for companies stretched by the wider socio-economic issues we are all currently facing.

1. 2023 Deloitte Manufacturing Industry Outlook
2. International SOS Risk Outlook 2023
3. The United Nations Statistics Division Report 2021
4. Chief Health Officer 2030: Addressing the Employee Health Needs of The Future
5. Deloitte Insights | Competing for talent: Recasting perceptions of manufacturing