The pace and energy of operating in the construction industry, whilst rewarding and varied, can often be challenging and stressful. The physical stress of working away from home is often associated with the environmental stress of early starts and late finishes which are just a few factors that can contribute to an employee’s poor mental health.
Mental health awareness has been catapulted to the surface in the last 5 years, especially with the rise of digital media promoting the mental health crisis globally. 1 in 4 of us living in the UK will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. Where the sector is not ahead of the game however, is tackling poor mental health in the workplace and construction is one of the key industries where change needs to happen and thankfully is now happening. The Construction Sector has dedicated so much energy around the physical safety but with the real growing concern around emotional well-being so it’s time to refocus.
Construction is considered a high-risk group
In an active environment like construction, we often witness high workloads and tight project schedules. Combine these with the financial pressures that say, for example, employees or sub-contractors face, we can understand and empathise with the pressures some individuals may experience. So much so, that the Samaritan’s charity class the industry as a ‘high-risk’ group.
Additionally, the disruption of the Covid-19 global pandemic has resulted in so much uncertainty for the construction industry with project work impacted, livelihoods lost and for some, overwhelming feelings around lack of control. What we can no longer ignore is that mental health difficulties are exacerbated with the attitudes towards those working within the sector.
In an industry that continues to be largely male-dominated at around 82%, the perception of ‘getting on with it’ is not something that can easily be changed. The macho workplace culture still prevails and overcoming this isn’t an easy feat because the industry does not fully understand the causes and not everyone wants to admit to feeling overwhelmed. Some of these causes can have an impact on work performance and overall company productivity. Without understanding what is causing this, the sector can be guilty of not recognising the true route of the problem.
In a report commissioned by the CIOB last year, their findings presented some sobering reading. It was reported that 70% of those involved in their survey research had experienced depression as a result of their work environment, with a shocking 26% who had suffered from suicidal thoughts.
It is understood that the risk of suicide in the construction industry is 3.7x higher than the national industry average. Last year alone it was estimated that £17.9 million workdays were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. These statistics are a sharp reminder that if we provide the accessible resources to help colleagues cope with their mental health, this can positively impact their well-being and consequently, the company performance.
A time for change and intervention
Attitudes towards mental health are changing and at KDM we welcome the opportunity to work with our staff and subcontractors to help and support them.
Along with other construction businesses, we continue to prioritise mental health within our workplace at KDM by educating change in a non-judgemental setting. Our colleague’s well-being is of the highest importance to us and we want to look out for the signs and monitor these wherever we can.
By instigating training with our team members, we are building their knowledge, skills and confidence to spot the signs of poor mental health and signpost where help can be offered. From stress to anxiety and depression, we want to spot the symptoms within our workplace and raise support at the earliest opportunity.
Working to reduce the stigma
For us, this isn’t a ‘tick in the box’ exercise because we want to get ahead of the curve to help support and improve the wellbeing of those we work with daily. Our goal is to reduce the stigma and encourage a safe, open and less stressful environment wherever possible. In creating a culture of transparency and trust, our endeavours will ensure that those who seek help, won’t ever have to look too far to find it. In doing this, we aim to promote healthy wellbeing amongst our colleagues and subcontractors within the workplace.
Some of the initiatives we have in place include staff who have volunteered to undergo First Aid Mental Health Training via the CITB. This resource means that anyone who works directly for KDM but also extending to subcontractors have access to support. That can simply be someone who will stop and listen or provide further help with access to professional services and additional support groups.
We will continuously focus and improve on recognising, intervening and preventing poor mental health wherever we can. By raising awareness and creating conversations around well-being with our colleagues and subcontractors, we desperately want to help change attitudes and perceptions that have plagued our sector.
In adopting well-being strategies, we will manage both the physical and psychological risks so that our purpose will always be on constructing a positive and open-minded culture.
The Construction Industry helpline can provide support and advice regarding Mental Health and are available 24/7 by contacting 0345 605 1956.
Samaritans are available 24/7 contacting their free line on any phone on 116 123. You can also text S.H.O.U.T 24/7 to 8525 for free confidential support.
Mental health charity Mind provides support and advice to anyone. You can contact them on 0300 123 3393.