Five ways to wellbeing

Is it me or has the last year flown by? If I cast my mind back to this time last year, the NFDC, on behalf of its members, signed the Building Mental Health Charter, signalling their commitment to improving mental health in our industry. That commitment to position mental health as a key strategic focus was announced in the 2018 yearbook with the unveiling of the NFDC mental health and wellbeing programme.  A programme specifically designed for and on behalf of all members, offering free Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing Ambassador workshops. Since then, I have expanded on the content of the programme and the benefits it offers to members. However, if you’d like any clarification as to what is on offer please contact the NFDC or NDTG who will be more than happy to provide further information.

At the time of writing this article, I’m delighted to announce that nineteen companies have participated in the half day mental health awareness workshop and fifteen in the full day wellbeing ambassador workshop. To ensure all of the membership can benefit, it’s also worth noting, these workshops have taken place so far in four of the five regions, with sessions in London and Southern Counties, Midlands and Welsh, North East and North West regions with Scotland very much on the radar moving into 2020.

The feedback has been extremely positive. When asked about the most valuable thing attendees have learned, many members mirrored the following comment ‘I’ve learnt how to have difficult conversations with people and get our teams talking about mental health. Excellent course pitched at the right format specifically for the constructions industry, which is a hard nut to crack! Really useful as a practical application for managers, I only wish more of our managers had attended. The toolbox talk will be shown to all of our staff and our managers. Thanks again’.

The mental health awareness video toolbox talk has also been one of the many success stories of the overall programme. When myself and my colleague, Steve Muggridge, Director at Synergy Wellbeing, first sat down to design the programme the aim was to deliver back a curriculum that would help to change the culture and reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health. The video toolbox talk was a perfect way of doing this, providing wellbeing ambassadors with a video asset designed to be shown to all employees, regardless of their role, responsibilities or seniority, thus helping to change the culture across the whole business and in doing so the industry. If you’re reading this and haven’t yet seen the video or been given a mental health awareness pocket card, now is the time to speak up, these resources are designed for you!

As members who have attended the programme have discovered, not all mental health problems are preventable. However, only a small proportion of people, 1 to 2% of the population, will experience a serious mental health problem such as bipolar disorder, psychosis or schizophrenia in their life. Anxiety and depression however are more common, with about 1 in 10 people affected at any given time.  Our programme teaches participants some things that we can do all do to look after our mental health, such as building our own resilience and promoting mental wellbeing.

Resilience and Wellbeing

As I’ve previously written in this publication, we can all become more mentally resilient enabling us to better cope with and manage the pressures of life and work. Being resilient is not a trait but a learnable skill, it is the ability to cope with life’s challenges and to adapt to adversity.

Things that improve our resilience include learning psychological coping skills, building social connections and doing things that promote our wellbeing. However, just as you can improve your resilience, it can also be eroded or worn down by difficult circumstances such as illness, debt or poor housing to name but a few. That is why it’s vital to think about our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others.

The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing as ‘a state of mind in which an individual is able to realise his or her own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’

A simpler way of thinking about it, is to recognise wellbeing as being comprised of two key elements – feeling good and functioning well.

Feeling good means experiencing positive emotions like happiness, contentment and enjoyment. It also includes feelings of things like curiosity, engagement and safety. While functioning well is about how a person is able to function in the world. This includes having positive relationships and social connections, as well as feeling in control of your life and having a sense of purpose.

High levels of wellbeing and resilience don’t just lead to fewer mental health problems, good levels of wellbeing are also associated with:

  • Improved learning and achievement
  • Reduced absence from work due to sickness
  • Reductions in risk-taking behaviours
  • Improved physical health
  • Reduced mortality
  • Increased community involvement

Interestingly, a number of countries have seen the benefits of prioritising wellbeing. Iceland for example, has put wellbeing ahead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in its latest budget and its prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, has urged other countries to follow suit.

Iceland also teamed up with Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish first minister and Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand to promote a wellbeing agenda and in August 2019 Ms Sturgeon said how ‘collective wellbeing not GDP should be the most important measure of a country’s success’.

Organisations who place wellbeing at the heart of their ethos regularly talk about the benefits, with employees being more engaged, more motivated, more productive and more likely to stay with the business. These employers also report a reduction in incidents, better on the job decision making and lower levels of absenteeism, all of which help increase overall productivity and return on investment.

What is your organisation doing to increase wellbeing?

So for those of you who haven’t managed to engage with the NFDC programme just yet here’s a few basic tips to get the wellbeing ball rolling.

The New Economics Foundation, a British think-tank founded in 1986 that promotes social, economic and environmental justice, has set out five things that we can all do to improve our wellbeing, they are:


With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be Active

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of fitness.

Take Notice

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you


Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

Keep Learning

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

So what can you do in 2020 to incorporate these five things into your life?

When the NFDC signed the Building Mental Health Charter and unveiled the mental health and wellbeing programme they signalled their commitment to improving mental health in our industry. The NFDC is still committed to this and you will see a hive of activity throughout 2020. Now I’d like to challenge you, the members of the NFDC to take up the gauntlet and consider what you can do to improve the five areas of wellbeing across your organisation.

It could be as simple as arranging monthly team get togethers, creating employee development programmes or how about offering to help a local charity or community space to improve their facilities. Getting the team together and volunteering your specialist expertise could transform many people’s lives and what’s more you’ll be connecting with new people. Or you could even join your demolition colleagues on the NFDC wellbeing programme where you will be given all of the tools to start right away.

When you implement the five areas of wellbeing, share your stories with the NFDC – they will then be able to share your achievement with the industry.

Dave Price
Managing Director
Vector Equilibrium Ltd