Mental health is an increasingly pressing issue, both in the workplace and outside. In the UK, 1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. This has a vast effect on employee engagement which is determined by an individual’s motivation and their personal well-being.
Suicide in Construction
Individuals working in the public sector often struggle to manage with the stress and pressures of the job, even more so with environmental factors such as Brexit creating mass uncertainty.
According to ONS figures, at least one construction worker takes their life every working day and construction ranks as the highest suicide rate (by profession) in the UK.
These statistics are extremely alarming, and the message could not be clearer; something needs to change.
The industry itself is heavily male dominated (80%) and key data from the Men’s Health Forum shows that men are far less likely than women to access psychological therapies and measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community, which limits them from discussing their feelings.
From a business perspective as well, if you consider that the total cost to employers relating to mental health problems is estimated at nearly £26 billion each year (that is equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce), there is equal benefit for investing in employees' well-being and offering support for mental health issues. It’s win-win.
This philosophy is backed up by studies on the Mind website which show that organisations with higher levels of employee engagement benefit from better productivity, profitability and stronger staff commitment.
What are the issues?
Studies show that workplace environment can have a negative impact on mental health when faced with:
• unrealistic expectations or deadlines
• long hours and no breaks
• a poor working environment
• negative relationships or poor communication
• poor managerial support
• job insecurity or change management
• high-risk roles
• lone working.
A lot of these issues are prevalent within construction. In a Guardian interview Mark Carrington, the managing director of Worksafe Partnership, an independent health and safety consultancy stated “It’s a high-pressure environment. A lot of guys are away from family all week, when every night you might be on the booze, you’re in a room by yourself. Loneliness, the drink, the pressure – the banter when it goes too far and becomes bullying.” Interviews highlighted examples: crane operators; stranded for several hours at a time, alone, no mobile phones allowed, doing technical, stressful work as well as job insecurity and money issues; the overwhelming need to do big projects cheaply has resulted in such competitive bidding that industry margins are tighter than ever.
How to help
• Establish trust and an open door to talk about mental health, make sure your employees feel valued.
• Be honest and make sure you encourage communication with your employees -let them know if they’re struggling, time off can be arranged.
• Make sure your company’s values pour through your own attitude.
• Stand by your employees when they encounter a problem – they get the best out of you; you get the best out of them.
If you or your colleague is suffering with mental health issues, here are some tips:
• Talk & listen: communication is key – no one can read minds! Put time aside for your yourself and colleagues. Make sure you are in a comfortable environment to talk about your feelings. Break the cycle of shame.
• Join a community outside of work: diversifying your activities and mixing up your routine significantly helps mental health.
• Take a break: take time for yourself in the day, get out and about away from your workplace.
Who to contact and what Unite do:
At Unite, one of our core values is to put people first, no matter what. We respect our employees and candidates and are determined for them to excel in the role that they are in. As a company, we will always have our candidate’s well-being at heart to ensure their utmost safety and wellbeing, plus delivering the best results for our client.
There are some amazing charities who are at hand 24/7 for those whose mental health is affecting their work. If you’re working in the construction industry and need additional help, here are some great charities: