Ambassador recommends: Kasia Kowalska from Bowmer and Kirkland

Heart of the City | 7 February 2023 | News
Ambassador recommends: Kasia Kowalska from Bowmer and Kirkland

Every month we like to share a recommendation from one of our ambassadors: something that inspires them in their responsible business work. This month we spoke to Kasia Kowalska, social value manager at Bowmer and Kirkland, who’s talking about mental health.

“For many the start of the year is a reflective time filled with long lists, new year’s resolutions and aspirations to be and do better. Being a ‘responsible business’ should also involve moments of reflection: how a business can be better and build on its strengths. Last year at B+K, we reflected on our mental health journey. Asking ourselves a difficult question, we discussed what is the greatest challenge that impacts and will impact the business’ day to day, our employees, supply chain and our clients.

Surrounded by alarming facts such as:

  • 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England Mind 2022 – McManus
  • 1 in 6 people report experiencing a mental health problem in any given week in England
  • A third of construction worker suffer with elevated levels of anxiety every day – Mates in Mind
  • Over 700 people working in construction in UK die by suicide every year- Mates in Mind

We needed to do more about mental health, a journey which started for us in 2017, supported by the main board. B+K worked with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) and the Listening Centre to tackle the stigma around mental health in the workplace by training four in-house MHFA Trainers. Investing in our own people and later extending this training to our subcontractors played a big part in achieving our aim of becoming a workplace where mental health is accepted and integrated in how we work. Watch the case study we did with MHFA.

We used the Mental Health at Work Commitment (MHWC) framework and its six standards to strengthen our focus areas and direction of travel for our mental health journey:

  1. Prioritising mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity​
  2. Proactively ensuring work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes​
  3. Promoting an open culture around mental health​
  4. Increasing organizational confidence and capability ​
  5. Providing mental health tools and support ​
  6. Increasing transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting

Reflecting on our journey helped us to understand that B+K’s sphere of influence goes beyond our employees and extends to our supply chain and the communities where we build, and that these stakeholders sometimes need the most support. We recognised that we needed to work through the six standards with them in mind.

Over the past year, our MH working group focused on reviewing our mental health tools and support for all our stakeholders (No. 5 of the MHWC Framework).

Key achievements over the past year include:

  • Extending mental health assistance to our supply chain. We recognised not all supply chain partners are able to provide the same levels of support as Bowmer + Kirkland does for our own staff and it was the right thing to do as they are an extension of our workforce.
  • Hosting Mental Health standdowns on our sites. Entire sites shut down for two hours for everyone to hear from a captivating speaker, usually organised by The Lighthouse Charity, on a mental health topic. After the sessions all individuals were able to access free counselling sessions.
  • Equipping our employees with the confidence, skills, and qualification to support others. We have trained over 170 certified Mental Health First Aiders, spread across every business unit and on every B+K construction site. All are clearly marked on site with hard hat stickers, labelled hi vis and contact details on all community boards and in circulation areas. We recognised that it is our responsibility to have the right systems in place so that our employees can support each other’s mental health and anyone else they encounter.
  • Investing in a more resilient future workforce. We build new schools for the Department for Education and we wanted to equip the schools with tools to support their students’ and teachers’ mental health. We partnered with Place2Be; a charity that provides mental health support in schools through counselling and teacher training. To date our donation has enabled eight schools to access the Place2Be support services for one year, reaching approximately 4,000 children.

So, if you have not yet started your mental health journey, now is the time to do it. I would recommend following the guidance on the Mental Health at Work website. There are plenty of free resources and toolkits available. Other resources to check out include:

Watch this video for more detail about B+K’s mental health journey.”

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