Prioritising mental wellbeing in the construction sector
The construction sector is a rewarding place to work. And one where workers are actively contributing to wellbeing in the community, from building hospitals to treat patients, to designing schools and universities to help further people’s education. However, it’s also a high pressure industry to work in where the workers themselves are susceptible to poor mental health. So how do we address this?
According to research carried out by the Charter Institute of Building (CIOB), men in the construction industry are three times more likely to commit suicide than those in other sectors. This shocking statistic is even more worrying when you consider that suicide is already the biggest killer of men under the age of 50.
With men comprising more than 89% of the workforce in the engineering and technology industry, it’s clearly an issue that needs to be addressed in order to save lives.
But how exactly do we address mental wellbeing at work? There are typically two factors that cause ill mental health: lack of awareness and lack of resources. In order to confront the issue, we must begin to destigmatise, encourage openness and most importantly, provide the help that is asked for.
A good place to start in increasing awareness is simply to start the conversation. Begin to speak to employees about wellbeing at work and consider putting policies in place that help employees to look after themselves.
It’s important to take a top-down approach (like with most issues in the workplace), so line managers, supervisors and directors must all prioritise mental health and ensure they’re trained to handle mental health issues that may arise. If you have the budget and resources, it’s worth also considering having members of the team trained to be a certified mental health first aider.
Creating a work culture of mental health awareness is only the first step though. The next challenge is ensuring that workers have access to the help they need if they find themselves struggling with ill mental health.
Businesses can support their employees and the sector as a whole, by providing time off, mental health support or access to therapy. The resources needed will vary from one person to another of course, but it’s important that companies consider both preventative care, as well as interventive care (like therapy), rather than waiting until there’s a problem before offering support.
Arguably the best thing that businesses can do to prioritise mental wellbeing is to create a caring and understanding workplace culture. The construction sector is full of varied roles which often involve early visits and long days on site, to the point where a number of workers may find that most of their waking hours are spent at work.
If work isn’t a happy place for them to be, then their wellbeing can quickly take a hit and mental health problems may arise further down the line. Making sure you have a good work culture can minimise this risk and help to keep employees well.
While some people would say that protecting employees' wellbeing is enough of a driving force to prioritise it, it certainly isn’t the only benefit that can come from putting mental wellness at the top of the agenda.
Employees who are experiencing mental health problems may need to take time off work, often for long periods of time and with little warning beforehand. Absenteeism is unfortunately costly for businesses. An employee who is off sick will either need to be covered by contract workers (which can be very expensive), or their workload can fall to other members of the team, which increases the risk of further mental health problems, stress and burnout.
Even if workers don’t go on sick leave, but are still struggling with their mental health, then they will probably experience reduced productivity, due to low mood. Reduced productivity can impact businesses negatively, especially over long periods of time.
It’s certainly in a business’ best interests to prioritise mental wellbeing, both for the sake of the employees but economically too. Those in the construction sector must begin to open the conversation around wellbeing in order to create a workforce of happy, productive and supported employees who feel valued.