More and more organisations are changing their business models and the culture of their workplaces in order to improve employee’s mental health. However, some sectors who are more complex in the way they operate still have a lot of work to do.
Construction work characterised by limited-term contracts, long hours, long commutes, time away from family and the pressure to complete on time and within budget negatively impacts an employee’s mental health. The ‘macho’ culture that’s embedded in many organisations prevents workers from speaking out and seeking help, meaning many will suffer in silence, causing a deterioration of their mental health.
Sadly, the industry has some of the worst rates of suicide in the UK, with male construction workers being 2.7 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person. Not only does poor mental health impact an employee but it affects their colleagues, friends, family and the business. It is clear that more needs to be done.
In May 2020, we produced a report investigating the state of mental health and wellbeing within the construction industry. The report found 26% of construction industry professionals thought about taking their own lives in 2019, 97% reported being under stress at least once a year and highlighted several work factors that contributed to their poor mental health.
The construction industry is used to hearing the term health and safety, which has improved significantly over the years. However, it is now time to consider mental, as well as physical health and ensure the wellbeing of their workforce is on the agenda.
Many organisations are working towards a healthy workforce and there are several construction companies leading the way in addressing mental health issues. There needs to be more collaboration within the industry in order to make a culture change, and to ensure mental health is being managed effectively on construction sites.
Some organisations are starting to implement mental health strategies for their workers, with many training their staff up as Mental Health First Aiders. This is a positive step forward in addressing issues of mental health within the workplace. Nevertheless, we believe more needs to be done to break down the stigma and to ensure all workers are receiving the right amount of support and help from their employers.
Charities such as Mates in Mind are helping equip the construction industry with the tools to improve mental health in the workplace.
Recently, we have reviewed ways we can help our members with mental health. Through our Benevolent Fund, in partnership with Anxiety UK, members of the CIOB and their family can now seek mental health support. We have also recently started to train staff in Mental Health First Aid and are conducting research to find out what more can be done from an industry and policy perspective.