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Insights How can we improve mental health within the global construction industry?

Mental health and well-being should be regarded as high priorities for organisations across all industries, and with the challenges caused by COVID-19, it is now more important than ever. Construction can be a fantastic and rewarding industry to forge a career in, however, workers are more likely than average to experience work-related stress and other mental health issues. Recent reports have identified that 48% of workers in the constructions industry took time off due to unmanageable stress and 91% were quoted as feeling overwhelmed.

Here at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, we put great emphasis on building a supportive culture around mental health. In 2017, we signed the Time to Change Pledge, and developed a detailed plan to help our employees talk about mental health.

Over the years, coming forward to discuss mental health has been stigmatised, but times are now changing, and more construction firms are starting to see their staff’s mental health as a priority. Although plenty of progress has been made, there is still a long way to go and there are a range of processes that construction firms can implement to improve their employees’ mental health.

Here, we discuss what construction firms can, and are, doing to combat the industry’s mental health issues.

image of a man in safety clothing

Proudly promote support of mental health

Acknowledging that there is a mental health issue within construction and promoting support is the first step towards creating a safer environment. Construction has the highest rate of male suicide among American workers and a similar trend can be seen across the globe, therefore action is a must. Safety and construction already go hand in hand and construction firms are now getting a firm grip on the impact of mental health on workplace safety. Steps to bring awareness to depression, loneliness and anxiety is imperative and encouraging workers to come forward if they are experiencing mental health are now becoming a priority.

Reducing the stigma and encouraging a safe and open working environment is on the rise within construction firms and creating a culture of transparency will ensure that those who need help, will have easy and regular access to it.

Create a positive working environment

Here at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, we understand the importance of building a strong wellbeing culture within workplaces . Employers have the responsibility for providing care for their employees and their working environment should not negatively affect their employees’ mental health.

Having traditionally focused on protecting workers from physical ailments, over the past decade, health and safety training has increasingly included mental health. Companies are acknowledging their role in addressing mental issues among their employees and how creating a positive working environment can have a substantial impact. While employers are unable to tackle all stressors in their employees’ lives, they are now focusing on improving working conditions such as:

  • Working relationships with colleagues
  • Management of occupational health risk
  • An accepting and diverse workplace culture
  • Working arrangements and hours

Provide training to employees

Recognition of issues regarding mental health and the importance of tackling them head on has grown significantly in the last year. It’s imperative that all employees, particularly managers, contribute to identifying when a member of staff needs mental support and showing them where they can get help. Employers are now providing managers and supervisors with further training to help them enhance their empathy skills and learn to listen to employees who may need a helping hand.

Construction firms are also acting by providing their staff with vital training on managing stress and recognising signs that a colleague may be experiencing mental health issues. Training modules are promoting a healthy work-life balance culture, introducing coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, and offering employees more support than ever.

Embracing flexible working

The AtkinsRéalis Group understands the value and importance of flexible working for harbouring a high-performance culture and managing workplace stress. We believe that all organisations should balance the needs of the employees with the demands of clients, and we are beginning to see a change in the construction industry.

Increasing the opportunities for flexible working is being implemented throughout many construction firms and continues to have a positive effect on mental health. Without a healthy work-life balance, burnout is a distinct possibility that can have a negative effect on mental health. Flexible working is an effective way of giving construction staff more control over their timetable and allowing them to work their personal lives around their work responsibilities.

The construction industry as a whole has focused on combatting the current skills gap and increasing the diversity of its talent pool. However, until recently, flexible working had not been a part of plans, particularly for on-site roles.

As COVID-19 accelerated the implementation of flexible working across the globe, the construction industry followed suit. Flexible working could be the solution to the demanding working patterns that are believed to contribute to construction’s mental health issues, as well as help to bridge the gender diversity gap.

Join us as we accelerate towards a better construction industry for all

We are wholeheartedly committed to making the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce our number one priority. Without a happy, healthy and energised team, we could not provide the innovative service that we do.

If you are looking for a new, exciting career path that can genuinely help engineer a better future for our people, we may have an opportunity for you. Browse our available construction roles today. Feel free to sign up for job alerts if you haven’t found your perfect role and join the talent community .