What is the impact of mental health in the construction industry and how is workforce affected?
Over 400,000 days of work were lost in 2017-18 because of poor mental health, reveals data from the Health and Safety Executive. One construction worker takes their own life every day, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.
This is a crisis that needs the support it deserves.
What causes poor mental health in the construction industry?
There are numerous contributory factors. Long working hours, many weeks away from home being away from family. Often there are job uncertainties, given the nature of the construction industry relies on short term projects, therefore lack of work predictability longer term can lead to worries and anxiety.
Late payment, which often happen in this industry can also affect construction bosses. A report from the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) found that 90% of construction bosses have suffered from mental health problems as a result of late payments.
The demographic within this industry predominantly consists of men. Culturally it is often accepted as, ‘men shouldn’t talk about their problems’. Masculine values often dominate this industry in relation to men being seen as ‘tough’. Further, they may be viewed negatively if they show any type of emotion, or related reaction. It can therefore often be much easier to keep feelings or emotional responses hidden, as this would be viewed as ‘weak’ or not being seen as masculine. This is reinforced by wider societal conditioning, where anything mental health can often be regarded as taboo, or should not be talked about.
Why we should all be more open about mental health
Mental health should no longer be seen as a stigma. We all have mental health, like we have physical health. At times, we can have experiences during our lives that may adversely impact on our mental health. Occurrences such as a bereavement, divorce, job loss, moving house. Or many may suffer with longer term conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Lets look at an example of a car. Even they have to go for an annual MOT and have to gain a valid ‘pass’ for a car to be road worthy. Things are going to wear down on cars, such as break pads or tyres. If you had a bald tyre, you wouldn’t wait until you veered into the central reservation of the motorway. You would get it mended, to avoid accident.
This is how we should look after our mental health, be proactive rather than reactive, before it’s too late.
If you want to get a six pack, you go to the gym, regularly and ensure you eat the correct diet. Why shouldn’t we look after our mental health the same? And it be okay to do so. After all, our mental health is completely connected to all our behaviours, the choices we make and the thoughts we have.
Some signs to look out for
Physical signs: Panic attacks, increase in anxiety or agitation, sleeping problems, concerns in relation to addiction
Psychological signs: avoiding social activities and isolation, visibly emotional.
Not all signs are visible. It is about being as open with yourselves and each other as you can.
How to improve mental health in construction
Ensure there is open communication and transparency between your workforce, including managers and teams. It is crucial to make those around you be aware that talking about mental health should not be taboo, and completely open and normal. The more you can have open conversations, the bigger a positive impact it will have.
Having good relationships between team members, each other and their managerial up line can make all the difference. Allow people to feel comfortable talking about their mental health.
While ensuring there are open conversations with colleague, and you are looking out for each other is a good place to start, wider initiatives are needed and cultural change is required for real, sustainable change to occur.
Options should be considered such as talks, events, or specialist wellbeing programmes. This in turn, will allow for change to be made across the industry which also positively impacts reduced absenteeism and productivity and morale improve.
Make sure you start with those open, transparent conversations!
Time54 are proud to work with Janine Mitchell at Change for Success, helping construction professionals transform their mental health and mindset.
Chris Ashton, Director at Time54, comments, “The work that Janine does is fantastic and I’ve seen the transformative effect she has on her clients.
The Construction sector can be a challenging industry to work in, certainly not helped by the Pandemic. There’s never been a better time to take your mental health seriously and treat it as the priority it needs to be.”
For more information, visit Janine’s website Change for Success or watch her video below on helping businesses improve productivity and reduce stress.