More than a quarter of construction industry workers feel unable to take time off work to address their mental health needs. This means there’s a high chance your teams are suffering in silence.
The construction industry needs better systems and processes for managing mental health and well-being. But given that construction industry workers are unlikely to come forward while struggling with mental health, businesses are frequently battling a demon they can’t see.
In this guide, we explore the warning signs that your workers could be suffering with their mental health, and explore which systems and processes could provide a solution.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in identifying declining mental health and well-being in construction companies is that the topic remains taboo. Which means symptoms often go under the radar.
According to our survey, 78% of tradespeople don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health concerns with others, so the likelihood that team members will tell you if they’re suffering is slim.
But the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health and well-being are similar across industries. Here are the ones to look out for:
Employees may display a sudden change in their productivity levels, as a result of becoming disengaged from the work. They appear less driven or connected to the work, and no longer engage with new opportunities.
Mental fatigue and overwhelm can impact decision-making and focus, resulting in more health and safety near misses and decreased awareness of their surroundings.
Over time, mental health issues can lead to physical symptoms. Construction workers might start taking more time off sick, or fail to perform as well when they do come in.
Employees could become irritable, withdrawn, or struggle to collaborate with their teammates if they’re struggling with mental health.
Eventually, employees who are burned out or suffering from their mental health could end up leaving. High staff turnover could indicate a company-wide problem.
Of course, these symptoms can be signs of something else. Rising employee turnover is the result of a toxic work culture. Disengaging from work because there are fewer learning and development opportunities.
One indicator that it could be burnout or another work-related condition is if multiple employees display signs. If you plan on approaching individual employees about their symptoms, keep an open mind that they could be a sign of something different altogether.
Read more about HRLocker’s survey findings that highlight concerning statistics about construction professionals when it comes to mental health struggles.
With the right systems and structures in place, you can stop mental health and burnout from going under the radar.
A combination of employee surveys, feedback mechanisms, and regular workload assessments will help you monitor employee mental health, and take action when more support is needed. Let’s look at each of those approaches in more detail.
Conducting regular surveys can help you get a clear picture of how teams are faring. Using the data gathered, you can identify areas for improvement and measure the effectiveness of your existing mental health and well-being activities.
While it might limit your ability to offer targeted support, give employees the option to remain anonymous on surveys. As we’ve already explored, construction industry workers are unlikely to come forward about their mental health experiences, so providing a layer of anonymity might give you more insight into employee wellbeing.
Where areas for improvement are identified, introduce workforce initiatives that teams can access on an individual level. For example, Employee Assistance Programmes that deliver third-party counselling services.
The most important thing you can do with employee surveys is take action on them. If individuals participate in a survey, but nothing changes between this one and the next one, it can be incredibly demoralising on top of existing mental health and well-being issues.
As HR professionals will know, feedback mechanisms are an essential part of monitoring and improving performance.
But extending these facilities to mental health and well-being awareness can also have a significant positive impact on productivity and engagement. By making mental health a frequent topic of conversation, you can help to destigmatise it for construction workers.
Project debriefs are an excellent time to introduce new questions and topics of conversation.
Team leaders should ask about how the project affected team members’ mental health, and volunteer their thoughts and feelings too. If employees can see their leaders being vulnerable and transparent about mental health, it could encourage them to be more open too.
Healthy feedback processes can also help to foster psychological and physical safety. If opinions aren’t welcomed and respected, individuals won’t want to come forward. This extends to the construction site – which can be a cause for safety concern if issues on-site go unrecorded.
As with employee surveys, feedback mechanisms are pointless unless they’re followed up with action. Feedback should always feed into your future plans.
The leading causes of stress for construction workers are financial worries and the cost of living crisis. In fact, 36% say these issues have harmed mental health, with one in five working extra shifts – which significantly increases the risk of burnout.
Regularly assessing employee workloads can help you nip overworking in the bud. Work with individual team members to compare their current duties with original job descriptions, and ensure scope creep isn’t infringing on their mental health.
When firms are busy and talent is in short supply, it can be tempting for construction businesses to overburden their existing teams. HR professionals can play a leading role in preventing this, by implementing workload management tools that track and analyse employee tasks and responsibilities.
These tools can help you identify workload imbalances, enabling managers to redistribute tasks more evenly and reduce the risk of burnout. By establishing a baseline of tasks for employees, you can easily identify when workloads skyrocket.
In our upcoming webinar, we will be joining Rachael Stewart, Business Development Director at Stewart Construction and Thorbjorg Helga (Tobba) Vigfusdottir, CEO and Founder of Kara Connect to discuss effective HR strategies to combat burnout within your workforce. Join us now for free:
To get a handle on mental health in the construction industry, firms need to break down the taboos and empower employees to break their silence. Combining better systems with empathetic communication, employers will be able to recognise signs like disengagement, health and safety near misses, absenteeism and presenteeism, and employee turnover as indicators of mental health and burnout.
Prevention and prioritisation will require regular surveys, feedback mechanisms, and workload assessments. Using workload management tools, construction companies ensure fair task distribution. And by fostering a supportive culture, firms can protect their workforce’s mental health, improve productivity, enhance engagement, and change the construction industry’s mental health story for good.