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Mental health in the UK construction industry

Mental health in the UK construction industry

Did you know that two UK construction workers die by suicide each working day – ten times more than from health and safety accidents?

Or that stress, anxiety and depression account for around 27% of all work-related illnesses in construction, and cost businesses somewhere between £70 and £100 billion per year?

With some of the worst mental health and suicide rates in the UK, it’s clear that something needs to change.

By raising awareness of mental health in construction and providing the support that our workers need, we can better support our teams, retain key workers and keep our businesses running effectively.

What are the main causes of stress in the construction industry?

While no job is completely stress-free, people in construction jobs are often subjected to a combination of factors that can take a toll on their mental health.

Physical stress
The job itself is often very physically demanding, and requires the worker to spend time outside in a variety of temperatures and weather conditions that can cause fatigue and stress. When combined with heavy workloads, long hours, tight deadlines and often long commutes, it’s no wonder that many end up feeling overwhelmed by the demands.

Job insecurity
Many construction workers are also self-employed. They often find themselves uncertain if they will find enough work – or even face burnout if they try to compensate for the lack of skilled workers. Combined with the fact that projects are limited-term within the construction industry, this can often add to a feeling of job insecurity, and cause yet more stress and anxiety for the business owner and construction worker.

Social stigma
Let’s not forget that within the construction industry culture, there is still a significant social stigma surrounding mental health, especially for men. Traditionally, workers are expected to keep their problems to themselves and carry on regardless, or else face the prospect of being judged or ridiculed.

    Mental health in the UK construction industry Mental health in the UK construction industry

What can we do to improve mental health in UK construction?

Despite these factors, construction companies can make a positive difference with the mental health of their workers, and help prevent them from becoming yet another statistic.

By doing so, they’ll also reduce employee turnover and absenteeism while boosting motivation and employee loyalty.

Ensure construction workers recognise the signs of stress
If an individual doesn’t recognise that they are under stress, they may not seek the help they need and the problem could become worse. Signs of stress include irritability, anxiety, and trouble sleeping; eating, drinking or smoking more than usual, and difficulty concentrating.

Update your company Health and Safety Policy
Many companies focus on physical health and safety but ignore the impact that mental health can have on employee health, wellness and performance. Ensure your health and safety guidelines contain detailed information about mental health and how the worker can seek support.

Encourage a good work/life balance
Balance is important, and not just for the mental health of workers; businesses that ensure that their people have a good work/life balance may see an upswing in productivity. Employees need sufficient time and energy to unwind and follow their own interests outside work; consider, for example, flexible working hours.

Consider creating a role for a Chief Happiness Officer
A variety of UK companies, from big law firms to smaller outfits, have embraced this idea (sometimes under a different title) recently. There’s a good reason; happy employees, with access to support in difficult times, are good for business.

Foster a culture of openness within the organisation
Changing traditional attitudes regarding mental health can take time, especially in the UK construction industry. However, businesses and organisations can be part of this change, encouraging their workers to talk about their stress, anxiety, depression or mental health problems so that others feel comfortable enough to do the same.

Protecting your workers’ mental health
Together, we can change attitudes towards mental health in the construction industry and help workers beat stress, anxiety and depression. By doing so, we don’t just transform their lives, but also reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, and make our businesses stronger for the future.

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