Mental health in construction: What manufacturing businesses should know
The construction industry comes with a wide range of pressures for workers, from tight deadlines and high-pressure contracts to long hours and the physical demands of the work. When you add in supply chain issues, growing costs and the stresses of the pandemic, it’s no wonder that workers in this industry are facing enormous stress which is impacting their mental health.
Within construction, there’s a ‘macho’ reputation that men feel the need to uphold, and this can mean that their mental health suffers as a result of being pushed down and ignored. But how can manufacturing firms overturn this problem and provide support to workers to make positive changes within the industry?
What causes mental health problems in this sector?
There are many reasons why construction workers are at an increased risk of mental health issues. This industry is prone to intensive workloads, but with the delays caused by COVID-19, workers are now facing incredibly tight deadlines and that puts people at a higher risk of burnout and stress. The struggle to source supplies can increase anxiety levels for those working in this industry too, not to mention financial challenges and a poor work-life balance that so many construction workers face.
This industry is very male-dominated, and with a predominantly male workforce comes a reluctance to speak openly about mental health. The stigma around men being open about their emotions and the ‘macho’ reputation that people working in the trades face means that the industry is prone to mental health concerns.
How do mental health issues manifest in the construction industry?
Research by the Chartered Institute of Building found that 26% of construction professionals considered taking their own lives in 2019, and yet 56% of professionals work for organisations with zero policies in place to protect the mental health of their staff. It’s a hidden crisis that is costing people their well-being and in many cases their lives.
But stress and anxiety also account for one-fifth of work-related illnesses in the UK, resulting in over 70 million absences every year and a cost of upwards of £70bn. Stress is a serious public health concern, with connections to not only mental health problems but also conditions such as stroke, heart disease, digestive issues, insomnia, immune system illnesses and even cancer.
How can manufacturing businesses make a change?
It’s clear that the construction industry needs to make changes to better support its staff when it comes to mental health issues. The first way that employers can prevent mental health from impacting employees is with stress management techniques and strategies that will help staff to get through stressful situations without it having a lasting impact on their health. Stress is a big issue in this industry, from systemic problems and long supply chains to withheld payments and job insecurity. Finding ways to manage that stress and work through it in a healthy way can help workers to manage their mental health effectively.
Leaders can also provide digital tools to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide options for workers to talk through their concerns, whether that’s online counselling or detailed information on the signs colleagues need to be mindful of, not just in themselves but also those around them, to get the conversation started. Training staff to be mental health first aiders can also help.
Employers have a duty to ensure they’re monitoring work conditions regularly, and this includes assessing the stressors and risks of work-related problems. When these triggers are identified, they can be dealt with so that fewer employees need to face problems that are causing them mental health problems. That might mean being more flexible about work patterns and breaks to avoid burnout, planning a collaborative effort with the whole team and holding regular meetings about workloads and deadlines so that people can raise their concerns early on.
Finally, make sure that staff know what resources are available to them to help them through difficult times, such as the Construction Industry Helpline which is available by phone and app, or in-house support that employees can turn to when they’re struggling. Creating an open dialogue around mental health is essential in making staff feel comfortable opening up and stating when they need help, to remove the stigma around mental health in the construction sector.
Mental health concerns affect all industries, but in a male-dominated sector where conversations around mental health are few and far between, it can be difficult to alleviate the problem. Manufacturing businesses need to make changes to foster a culture of open communication and reduce stress where possible to help ease the burden this work has on staff mental health.
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