Binn Group is leading the way in providing a workplace safety net for employees in a bid to tackle the country’s growing mental health problems.
In what is recognised as an industry first, the Perthshire-based company has brought mental health care “in-house” ensuring easy access to support and assistance for its 140-plus strong workforce.
Binn Group is working with mental health support charity SPEAK to address the wide-ranging issues which can impact on workers’ psychological well-being.
And after only seven months into the consultancy partnership, the company is already seeing a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in productivity and general well-being.
Binn Group HR Manager Danny McAtear explained the advantages of having mental health support on site.
“The waste management industry is regarded traditionally as a tough male-dominated environment with workers hiding their stress and emotions rather than opening up and seeking help,” he said. “Knowing there is someone they can speak to in private on site – who will be understanding, supportive and non-judgemental – can make a huge difference for employees.”
In-house one-to-one peer support is given by SPEAK founder Rosie McKearnon who battled for many years with her own mental health problems.
“I know how lonely and overwhelmed you can become when things get on top of you,” she said. “Mental health problems are not something you can shake off. Sadly, not everyone feels comfortable seeking help and even if they do, the waiting time to see a professional can be too long for those who are really struggling.
“The workers at Binn Group know I have been at rock bottom and they see that I came through it,” explained Rosie. “This background and personal experience make it easier for people to approach and ask for help to deal with their issues.”
Danny stressed that many people don’t want to raise their issues at home and worry family and loved ones. Therefore, an outlet at work where they will be listened to and supported is seen as a huge advantage.
“Sometimes they just need to unload and get things in perspective and they know Rosie understands the issues,” said Danny. “Others require ongoing support and advanced care which we can access quickly for them.”
To date, around 10 per cent of the Binn Group workforce has stepped forward for that first supportive chat.
“We are now seeing those who have come forward supporting others,” said Rosie.
“You know that when the chat in the locker room changes from ‘get a grip’ to ‘do you think I could get to speak to her too’ that we have breached the barrier. Things are changing – and changing for the better. I’m seeing improvements in the workforce every day.”
Binn Group will be conducting a survey in several months time to identify the impact this groundbreaking collaboration has had. They are in no doubt, however, that this unique proactive approach has pointed the way for others.
“HR experts across the country are now looking at the model pioneered by Binn Group and are contacting SPEAK with a view to rolling it out for their own employees,” said Danny.
“I think Binn Group is fairly typical in having a percentage of employees struggling with mental health issues – the problem is so widespread throughout Scotland,” said Rosie.
“What is different is that Binn Group decided to do something about it. They value their workers, they recognise the problems of mental health and they’ve tackled it head-on with positive outcomes for everyone involved.
“While the NHS struggles to meet the demand for mental health services, the example shown by Binn Group could point the way ahead for the business sector,” she added.
Danny stressed that the initiative shown at Binn Group was merely a formalisation of the values held by father and son owners John and Allan MacGregor.
“It’s a family business with family values – that’s what the company was built on over 20 years ago and what continues to drive it today,” said Danny. “This initiative comes right from the top and knowing that has helped workers recognise how valued they are.”