Mental Health in the Construction Industry
Construction industry mental health has been in the press this week with an article and survey from Construction News. (https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/best-practice/mind-matters/mental-health-survey-firms-starting-to-break-the-stigma/10032769.article)
This article paints a worrying picture following their survey of more than 1,300 people in the construction industry. Whilst the stigma surrounding mental health problems seems to be improving, the statistics relating to people’s experience of mental health are all showing a deteriorating trend.
Although these increases are relatively small, they do reflect a growing problem within this industry. This is of particular concern given that 67% of survey responders stated that awareness of mental health had improved in the year.
Mental Health Wellbeing Issues
The statistics from this survey suggests that mental health wellbeing is not uniform across all companies and all employee demographics.
Smaller companies had a higher incidence of poor mental health than larger ones. 65% of responders in companies employing less than 100 people reported health problems as compared with 57% across the industry.
Younger employees also reported higher incidences. 68% of graduates and 64% of junior staff members recorded mental ill health and 31% said they had considered suicide. This compares with 57% and 25% respectively, across the industry.
Mental Health Wellbeing Causes
Clearly, this is only one survey and the methodology may not be as robust as a clinical paper. Therefore, these results should be treated with appropriate caveats. However, it does indicate some cause for concern and there may be some learning points for all industries to draw from it.
- The construction industry has had a difficult year with companies such as Carillion failing. Equally, disasters such as the Grenfell fire has placed additional stress and work on some companies and some job roles.
- Pressure on profit margins and cash flow has intensified. This may threaten the viability of some companies and bring additional job stress if workforces are thinned. It may also reduce the availability of cash for investment in wellbeing initiatives.
- Traditional managerial styles may not be as effective with the younger generation, millennials. These styles may be exacerbating inherent stresses and pressures at a time when additional support is required.
Actions for All Industries?
If these conclusions are accurate then the construction industry is not alone in experiencing them. All industries endure challenges and it is easy to underestimate the impact that they have throughout the organisation.
It is also tempting to reduce or stop programmes which focus on wellbeing when financial pressures mount. However, it is precisely these times when these programmes are at their most important.
- How much challenge is your company currently facing?
- To what extent does this filter down the organisation?
- Do you step-up the wellbeing support or scale it back during periods of challenge?
The challenge of managing cross-generational teams is also consistent throughout all industries. An effective leadership style should be effective for every generation. If a manager’s style is not effective for one group then training and development is the answer rather than criticism or derision.
- How do you manage millennials?
- What support do you give managers in leading younger teams?
- Is there evidence that younger employees are facing additional workplace stress than other staff?
- How do you monitor the effectiveness of leadership styles?