Research suggests that 26% of construction industry workers thought about taking their lives in 2019 and 70% experienced depression. Over 50% of workers are employed by companies that do not have policies that focus on mental health and well-being in the workplace (source). In this guide, we’ll explore effective strategies that can be implemented to protect and improve mental health within the construction industry, drawing on the study, ‘Strategies to improve mental health and well-being within the UK construction industry’ by Marc Campbell and Joseph Gunning.
Mental health strategies for the construction industry
Most people know that the construction industry carries a high level of risk of physical injuries, but mental health is an area of great concern within the field. Within this industry, suicide rates are higher than the national average, and anxiety, substance abuse and affective disorders, which include depression, are also more prevalent.
Employers have a duty to protect and support workers. This includes managing mental health and being proactive in reducing the risk of mental health disorders, as well as lowering the risk of physical injuries. Recommendations from the study include the following strategies to improve mental health in the construction industry:
- Regular risk assessments and questionnaires
Over 50% of the workers surveyed do not work for businesses that conduct regular surveys or risk assessments. Construction company bosses should take the time to carry out assessments and questionnaires to identify hazards, encourage workers to highlight concerns or issues and gather feedback about barriers to good mental health and a healthy work-life balance.
- Positive relationships
More than half of the workers surveyed said that there was a lack of social participation and inclusion in the workplace. Building positive relationships is one of the most effective ways to boost well-being, foster cohesion and collaboration and increase productivity.
Team-building is designed to bring people together and encourage individuals to work cohesively and effectively with others. A lack of focus on team-building exercises and activities and limited social opportunities can contribute to fractured relationships and low morale.
- Improved employer awareness
Employers are often aware of the dangers and hazards that cause physical injuries and health issues, but it can be harder to spot risk factors for mental health issues. Improving employer awareness can be hugely beneficial for creating more inclusive, supportive workplaces, building healthy relationships between employers and employees and minimising risks, such as bullying.
- Creating a culture of openness
Many workers are reluctant to report health problems. Over 20% don’t feel comfortable talking about physical health problems, and more than 50% wouldn’t open up about a mental health issue. Creating a culture of openness should make workers feel more comfortable about sharing diagnoses or concerns about their health and encourage others to talk about mental health too.
- Enhancing employer-employee engagement
Business owners, managers and team leaders play a crucial role in promoting well-being and mental health in the workplace. However, research shows that most workers do not feel comfortable talking to their manager or boss. Improving engagement, encouraging interaction and establishing stronger, more balanced relationships will help to make it easier for workers to open up and be honest if they have ideas, concerns or problems.
- Education and learning
Over 50% of employers work for companies that don’t run health awareness events. A lack of education and awareness can make it difficult for employees to be open about mental health and for colleagues to offer support because they don’t know how to react or help. Workshops, courses, awareness days or weeks and providing access to resources can all help to enhance education and learning.
- Health and well-being programmes
Health and well-being programmes cover everything from encouraging active lifestyles and a healthy work-life balance and using devices, apps or resources to access useful content to providing access to counselling services and support groups. Additional features of an employee programme may include health checks and screening.
Volunteering is proven to improve mental health, encourage social interaction and reduce stress. More than 45% of workers are not given opportunities to volunteer for charities.
How K2A can help
Mental health should be taken seriously within the construction industry. If you own a company or you lead a team, it’s critical to understand the benefits of implementing strategies to improve mental health and well-being. K2A is a specialist occupational health consultancy, which delivers mental health services to empower and educate business owners and employees. We provide a range of services, including a 2-day Mental Health First Aid course for the workplace.
If you would like to find out more or book a Mental Health in the Workplace course, visit https://www.k2a.uk.com/mental-health-services/.