There are many benefits to working in the construction sector. The sector contributes greatly to economic growth and has a big impact on both the economy and society. Not only does the industry account for 10% of the UK’s total employment, but the outputs of the industry also touch us all, from schools and hospitals to our homes and workplaces. The sector provides the infrastructure we need to give us a better quality of life. But what about the lives of those working in the sector?
This week, it is Mental Health Awareness Week which takes place from 10 to 16 May, it’s the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health. It is our reminder to regularly have those conversations about mental health in the hope it becomes more familiar, less daunting and no longer stigmatised.
Construction is a great sector to work in (I’ll testify to that) but it makes stark reading to be reminded that despite making concerted efforts in this area, the industry has one of the highest rates of mental health issues. Given the vital impact the industry has on all our lives, it is crucial that the sector continues to focus on supporting and helping to improve mental health amongst colleagues as a priority.
Known for high workloads, tight deadlines and financial pressures there are a range of factors in the sector which make it a perfect breeding ground for stress and anxiety. These can be coupled with pressures outside of work for example with family or friends that can provide further sources of tension. It is not always the easiest of environments to speak up and start a conversation and say that you are struggling or confide in your colleagues that something is wrong.
Nonetheless, the sector is working hard to make it less daunting to speak up, so the emphasis is truly on ‘health and safety’ and not just safety. Workplaces have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to do all they reasonably can to support the health, safety, and wellbeing of their people. Yes, we still need to worry and consider the physical dangers on worksites, but we need to consider the mental impacts of the workplace in equal measure and how to best address these and create a supportive environment for our colleagues and friends.
Like our physical health, our mental health can fluctuate, impacting on our moods and behaviours. Unlike physical health issues, it can be harder to pinpoint and address causes of our personal struggles and challenges. The recent public health coronavirus crisis has given us all another challenge to navigate through. Helping people navigate through work has never been more necessary for organisations to address than it is now.
The first step is something all workplaces can do, and that is committing to making a difference. Not just saying it – but doing it. From here, organisations can begin to start creating, sourcing, sharing, developing resources and initiatives that can support their people, from the top to the bottom.
The construction industry is known for sharing best practice and learning from experience. Throughout this week we will be sharing ideas and initiatives from a range of different organisations. We’ve asked them how they are tackling mental health in their workplaces for their people. This is our chance to share and learn from each other, and we look forward to starting this conversation with you.