In the Viewpoint column of PBM’s July/August edition, Editor Paul Davies reports back from a successful BMF Conference in Dubrovnik.
It isn’t too long since the wheels touched down at Stansted, returning the PBM delegation home from a truly memorable BMF Conference in Dubrovnik. It was an inspired choice of venue whilst the business programme flowed superbly, with a real cohesion in addressing a number of the underlying challenges confronting the building materials supply sector.
You can read more in our review later in the issue, but arguably the central theme to emerge concerned the prime importance of the industry’s people — from attracting (and managing) a new generation of talent, to the inter-personal relationships that underpin so many business transactions.
Even though it must be viewed as a showpiece event for the sector, we are always aware of the fact that only a small percentage of our readers are able to attend the All Industry Conference. However, we are also especially ‘mindful’ that — as outlined in last month’s column — particular emphasis was given over to the topic of mental health awareness. As a subject of clear importance for everyone working in the sector, we make no apology for returning to the issue.
A session on the main stage in Dubrovnik delivered by Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn drew a response perhaps unlike any other. To a hushed audience, Jonny spoke frankly and bravely about his personal battles, culminating in a fateful meeting with Neil — quite literally the man who was able to talk him down from the ledge on one of his darkest mornings.
It was a powerful presentation, highlighting the scale of mental health issues in the UK and also the advisory services that are available for individuals and organisations alike. The Q&A that followed — with excellent input from Nick Knowles — brought the subject closer to home, with a discussion on the troubles affecting those in the sector itself and the role merchants can play in supporting both their own staff and their customers — statistics show that those in the building trade are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems.
Work to raise wider awareness must be ongoing, however it is wonderful to acknowledge that both here and in the packed seminar sessions that followed — co-hosted with Brian Dow, CEO of Mental Health UK — addressing the issue is already high up the industry’s agenda. Gone, it seems, is the notion that mental health struggles are somehow a sign of weakness or that individuals should simply ‘pull themselves together…’
Speaking on behalf of their own organisations — merchants and suppliers alike — many delegates offered examples of the initiatives that have already been put into practice, including trained ‘mental health first aiders’, mentoring systems, a free counselling service and even a confidential helpline. As with any illness, prevention is better than cure and many spoke of the work they are doing to ‘spot the signs’ before a problem becomes a crisis.
With all employers and managers bound by a duty of care to their staff, it is worth noting that mental health issues are said to be the largest factors behind both absenteeism and so-called ‘presenteeism’ with the ensuing effect on productivity. Put another way, there is a very clear business case for investing in the well-being of your people.
As highlighted by the sessions in Dubrovnik, the conversation about mental health has evolved considerably and the merchant sector appears to be taking a lead. Let’s not let the pace drop.
“Mental health issues are said to be the largest factors behind both absenteeism and so-called ‘presenteeism’ with the ensuing effect on productivity. Put another way, there is a very clear business case for investing in the well-being of your people.”