Construction can be a rewarding and varied industry to work in. But it’s also one where pressures can be high, and people can be more likely than average to experience work-related stress and or other mental health issues. For employees, it often hasn’t felt very easy to come forward, mention that something’s wrong or ask a colleague to talk about it.
But things are changing, more and more construction businesses are starting to see their staff’s mental health as a priority. With plenty of help, information and training available, it has become easier than ever to put employee mental health and wellbeing at the heart of your organisation.
What can employers do to support mental health at work?
- To make sure that your staff know about your employee assistance programme and the Construction Industry Helpline, which is available by phone and via their new mobile phone app;
- To deliver an interactive ‘toolbox talk’ to raise awareness about mental health, teach people to recognise signs that colleagues might need some support on, and to get the conversation started;
- Train line managers and supervisors are trained in what to do in situations when somebody mentions a mental health issue;
- Train around one in 100 employees or subcontractors as certified mental health first aiders.
If you train the workers how to handle mental health then you are more likely to get people more comfortable with the situation. If you are in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable talking to any work employees you can always talk to a loved one for help and support.
Work-related ill-health is increasing in the construction sector, according to the Health and Safety Executive. There were 82,000 ill health cases in 2017-2018, up 2,000 from the year before. This cost the UK economy £160m in lost working days.
However, while physical health is very much on the construction industry’s radar, of real and growing concern is mental health. The same data shows stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 10% from 2016-2017, with a fifth of all cases of ill health in the sector stemming from mental health issues. Consequently, over 400,000 workdays are lost each year.
The construction industry is vital to the UK economy. The country’s one million construction firms employ 2.4 million people and the sector contributes £113bn to the nation’s economy according to government statistics. It is therefore crucial that improving mental health among construction workers becomes a priority.
What is causing mental health problems within construction?
There is a range of systemic issues in the construction industry creating a perfect storm of stress, anxiety and depression. The construction industry provides a challenging and pressurised lifestyle. This includes working long hours, some don’t have enough time to see or look after their families and also workloads is something that can cause issues with people’s health.
Across society, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of discussing mental health issues, but this societal change is taking time to filter through the construction industry.
Asking for help and opening up about feelings and emotions are not things that come naturally to many of those working in construction due to them not really being able to open up.
Many construction workers are temporary or contractors and the lack of job security can contribute to stress and anxiety which can also lead to suicide and self-harm, being aware of someone else’s emotions is really important because it could lead to something terrible.