Oil and gas workforce wellbeing under the spotlight

Dr Steve Smith from RGU is working with North Sea oil and gas companies.
Dr Steve Smith from RGU is working with North Sea oil and gas companies.

Mindfulness based stress management is growing in popularity across the oil and gas industry as the sector responds to a rise in mental health awareness in its workforce.

The fall in oil price and its effect on the economic state of the industry resulting in thousands of redundancies has meant that stress-related conditions such as anxiety and depression have become important issues within the sector.

Dr Steve Smith from Robert Gordon University (RGU) is working with North Sea oil and gas companies as they seek innovative ways to proactively protect their workforce from the harmful effects of work related stress.

Dr Smith, who is an Enterprise Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Mental Health and Wellbeing at RGU, explains: “The economic uncertainty has resulted in a rise in stress related problems, causing issues for organisations as they come to realise that the mental health of their workforce is a major asset to be protected.

“We already know that stress related illness is one of the major causes of sickness related absence in industry; work related stress accounted for almost half (43%) of all days lost to the British economy in 2014/15, with 440,000 workers affected and a total of 9.9 million days lost.

“While every employer is aware of the need to protect employees from the effects of harmful and toxic work environments, some are coming to see the benefits of proactively protecting the mental wellbeing of their workforce too.

“Approaches involving Mindfulness meditation are attracting increased attention as the benefits of this skills-based technique are becoming recognised.”

Dr Smith, who leads the RGU:Wellness mental health solutions service, continues: “Mindfulness based training is flexible to any audience and working environment, and has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety, lessen distraction and increase attention to task. Mindfulness practice can also help staff to achieve more and to a higher standard.

“Many organisations are providing free mindfulness classes for their staff; RGU has been doing this for the last three years, and as word spreads other organisations are offering drop-in sessions and structured programmes providing instruction and support for staff to ‘be-in-the-moment’.”

For more information on RGU:Wellness, a specialist occupational health service for workplace absence management, and its range of services, visit www.rgu.ac.uk/rgu-wellness