Construction industry workers are at a crisis point. In a survey of 500 industry professionals, we found that 32% had struggled with stress and mental well-being issues in the last 12 months.
The industry faces compounding challenges. The rising cost of materials, labour shortages, and delayed pandemic projects are weighing heavily on workers. And this is reflected in their mental wellbeing.
A culture change is needed. In a male-dominated field where talking about mental health still feels taboo, fostering a supportive culture couldn’t be more important. And HR professionals have a leading role to play in cultivating a safe and inclusive place to work.
In this short guide, we’ll highlight three ways you can foster a supportive culture in the construction industry.
The majority of tradespeople (78%) aren’t comfortable discussing their mental health concerns with others. Before the industry can take action, it needs to get talking.
HR professionals and leadership should set an example by speaking openly and regularly about their mental well-being. Workers should see their team leaders and managers talking about mental health and feel reassured that it’s safe to do so too.
The language you use could also be influencing well-being. Worryingly, 40% of construction workers feel compelled to continue working while suffering from mental health issues, and 27% feel unable to take time off to address these needs.
The construction industry is dealing with multiple pressures – increased workloads, talent shortages, and the rising cost of materials. But passing on this pressure to your existing team could jeopardise their health even further.
Destigmatise conversations about mental health and well-being by launching a company-wide initiative to raise awareness. Use a variety of channels to share information and get workers involved – from physical resources like posters to email newsletters, on-site sessions, and team talks.
Part of this initiative might include educating employees. Training on the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues could help coworkers support each other more effectively. These skills can be honed with a Mental Health First Aid course. Do an online search to find one in your area.
Look out for charities and organisations that already offer a library of support for construction workers, and signpost to them when you don’t have internal resources.
Use training and day-to-day work to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about mental health. When speaking up becomes a natural part of the culture, mental health and well-being concerns are less likely to go under the radar.
The welfare of your teams depends on the quality of your leadership.
Engaging your leadership team with mental health training is essential because it will help you deliver consistent support throughout the company.
Topics such as employee well-being, active listening, and emotional intelligence are critical. Equip leaders with the skills to identify and respond to mental health concerns in their teams. Look out for courses or training opportunities focused on these areas.
You can take things one step further by embedding mental health and well-being into your recruitment approach. Make empathy, emotional intelligence, and knowledge about mental health essential qualities in your personal specification.
Leaders will already speak with their teams regularly, but conversations should also include mental health and well-being. Ensure there’s time during regular check-ins to talk about these topics – and that leaders can signpost to resources or further support. The conversation is essential, but then you need to take action.
Leaders can inspire trust by sharing their own experiences. You can make this a part of existing procedures – for example, in a project debrief, everyone (including the team leader) should get a chance to say how the project impacted their mental health and well-being.
When it comes to finding the right training for leaders, look for courses, workshops, and opportunities that are geared towards the construction industry. Mates in Mind is a charity committed to supporting employers in the construction industry with guidance and education on mental health and well-being.
HR professionals can make a huge difference, but there comes a time when outside support is key. Only 15% of construction workers have sought support from friends and family – which demonstrates just how many people could be missing out on help.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can fill the gaps in your mental health and well-being strategy. They provide access to confidential counselling and emotional support for employees.
Some employees might prefer to seek support from an external counsellor, instead of the internal team. By providing an EAP, you can make sure your people can access the right kind of support for them.
EAPs should be confidential and accessible, and you could even work with mental health professionals to build a tailored package of support.
Be aware that delivering these programmes through a limited number of channels could ostracise team members, and exacerbate mental health and wellbeing struggles further. Make sure you’re offering support in a way that’s accessible to everyone on your team – a combination of physical, digital, and phone support might be necessary.
While our recent survey revealed some worrying statistics on mental health and well-being in construction, HR professionals can turn the tide. Reframing how your construction business thinks about mental health is no small task – but it could save a life.
Looking for more research on mental health and well-being in construction? Check out our latest survey.