Investing in mental health in construction is of paramount importance for significantly influencing workers’ experiences, job satisfaction, and mental health.
The industry, known for its challenging environments has some of the highest rates of mental health issues compared to other sectors. This includes notably increasing rates of suicide (three times the national average for men), stress, anxiety, and depression.
The nature of construction work, often defined by short-term contracts, extended work hours, lengthy commutes, periods away from loved ones, and the constant pressure to finish projects on schedule and within budget, negatively impacts an employee’s mental health.
Additionally, the ‘macho’ culture that’s embedded in many organisations prevents workers from voicing their struggles and seeking help. As a result, many employees struggle alone, leading to a decline in their mental health.
A recent report found that 26% of construction industry professionals thought about taking their own lives in 2019, 97% reported being under stress at least once a year and highlighted several work factors that contributed to their poor mental health. It is important to note that stress can be a contributor to serious distress but the reasons suicide happens are complex, and to better understand and prevent suicide, we need to see the bigger picture. Suicide is never inevitable and with available support and talking to someone may offer a new perspective.
The Power of Compassionate Culture
Compassionate leadership in any sector, including the construction industry, plays a significant role in enhancing individual and organisational outcomes. In the construction industry, where the nature of the work is demanding, compassionate leadership can make a big difference.
91% of leaders say compassion is very important for leadership. This involves a focus on good relationships, empathy and supporting other people, enabling those we lead to feel valued, respected and cared for, so they can reach their potential and do their best work. There is clear evidence that compassionate leadership results in more engaged and motivated staff with high levels of wellbeing.
Culture can have a transformative impact on various levels, from worker wellbeing to project outcomes and industry reputation. Compassion promotes open communication and positive working relationships. When workers feel heard and respected, they are more likely to share insights and ideas, leading to more effective project management and improved outcomes.
Building Blocks of a mental health-focused culture
Putting mental health in construction at the forefront and implementing a wellbeing strategy requires commitment from all levels of the organisation, from leadership to workers on the ground. It involves fostering empathy, providing resources for wellbeing, promoting open communication, and leading by example.
Humanising processes and creating a compassionate workplace culture help ensure healthier environments and positive working relationships. Key to both mental health and productive workplaces are the core building blocks of good relationships: trust, respect, empathy, genuine concern for each other, appreciation of diversity, openness, and effective communication.
Organisations are complex and unique; there’s no one-size-fits-all answer but here are some strategies you can try:
Educate and raise awareness
Begin by educating employees about the benefits of a compassionate culture and how it aligns with the organisation’s goals, which can help overcome resistance and build engagement.
Create safe spaces for communication
Establish open and transparent communication channels where employees feel comfortable talking about their needs, concerns and ideas without judgment. Encourage managers and supervisors to actively listen and support their teams. This means giving your full attention to employees when they are speaking, asking questions to clarify their concerns, and following up on any issues that are raised.
Training and education
Equip managers and staff to recognise signs and ways to support people struggling as well as provide training to all staff on topics like empathy, conflict resolution, burnout, and stress management.
Implement programs that support employee wellbeing, such as mental health resources, employee counselling, and work-life balance policies.
Create an inclusive environment that values diversity. Promote diversity and inclusion initiatives to ensure all employees feel respected and included.
Peer support networks
Foster a sense of community by encouraging peer support networks. Allow workers to connect and share their experiences in a safe environment.
Conflict resolution strategies
Train employees in conflict resolution techniques that promote empathy and understanding and ways of overcoming challenges, to prevent differences from escalating and damaging relationships.
Keep the long-term benefits in mind. A compassionate culture might take time to fully establish, but the positive impact on worker satisfaction, safety, and project outcomes is worth the effort.
The Role of Leadership in Mental Health in Construction
A compassionate culture relies on open dialogue and collaboration, which might conflict with traditional power dynamics. Leaders have the authority and influence to drive cultural change. Their support and involvement are crucial. If top management is not fully committed to the idea of a compassionate culture, it’s unlikely to gain traction throughout the organisation.
Leaders, especially top-level executives, set the tone for the entire organisation. Their behaviour, attitudes, and values influence the behaviours and attitudes of employees at all levels. If you criticise your staff for making a mistake while letting yourself off the hook without any consequences, you are sending a message that it is OK for other managers to do the same.
Leaders who prioritise compassion and build trust by being transparent, honest, and empathetic, create environments where employees feel psychologically safe. During times of crisis or change, caring leaders provide stability and support. Their empathy helps employees navigate challenges and uncertainty more effectively.
When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and invested in their work, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction. Higher morale, better teamwork, and healthier work environments contribute to the long-term success of the organisation.
INTERESTED IN OUR WORKPLACE WELLBEING SERVICES?
We help workplaces develop a compassionate approach and mentally healthy environments where staff feel supported. We know that each workplace is different and has its own ways of working and a unique culture.
That’s why our workplace wellbeing offer is tailored specifically to you, based on the needs of your teams and employees. It’s all based on a collaborative process of getting to understand your organisation. Get in touch for more information.
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