How employers in construction can protect their staff’s mental health

The physical safety of employees is one of the biggest concerns in the construction industry. The safety of employee mental health however, appears to be less of a concern. A report from the Office of National Statistics found that the construction industry makes up for 13% of in-work suicides, despite the industry only accounting for 7% of the UK workforce. A recent survey conducted by Construction News and Mind Matters found that between 2017-2018 81% of respondents believed that there was still a stigmas around mental health issues.

With men making up 89% of the workforce in the construction industry and are said to be more vulnerable to mental health issues, it is time for the industry to tackle the importance of eliminating the stigma. Workforce’s must create a supportive work culture where employees feel comfortable to open up about how they feel. Employers must consider the work environment and implement the same safety standards to mental health as they do for physical health. 

Here are 5 important elements employers can consider:

  1. Improve access to daylight

If your construction project/workplace is predominantly underground or away from natural daylight, encourage workers to take their lunch break outside where there is natural light. Even better, consider enhancing access to natural light and create a relaxing space where staff will want to spend time.

  1. Provide a quiet space

Every site/office should have a mixture of spaces – some for coffee or lunch breaks, meetings, socialising etc. Providing your staff with a place they can go to switch off will be a huge benefit to their overall well-being.

  1. Communicate

Communicating the fact that you take their health and safety seriously will contribute to a sense of wellbeing. Do you provide access to external or internal support? Do employees know where to go or who to go to if they are suffering with anxiety or depression? Make this clear to people from day one. If you don’t have the budget or resources for this to be a staff member, consider putting together an online tool kit for all employees.

  1. Take training seriously

Stress management training can provide a number of benefits for individuals managing teams as well as more junior team members. Informed managers will be far more able to spot the signs of someone suffering from anxiety and/or depression and will have the techniques of how best to support that individual.

The culture of the construction industry is gradually changing and the best employers are those at the forefront of this change.

  1. Encourage socialising and collaboration

Isolation is common in construction and can far too easily lead to loneliness. The workplace environment has a huge impact on an individual’s overall happiness, so by creating social groups and activities outside of work you can create a more community feel. Something simple like organising a quiz night, going on a team lunch or organising a rounders tournament can really help boost morale.

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