mental health in construction

One of my closest friends, who is a construction worker, and I have spent countless hours talking about sports, family, politics, current events, social causes, careers, and movies. We’ve gotten into heated….debates about who the grillmaster is (spoiler alert, it’s me). We are a masterful team for moving, working on cars, or cleaning up after a party thrown by one of our wives. We share similar thoughts and opinions on most topics. Despite this, there is one subject we avoid.

We don’t talk about mental health.

I’m not opposed to it. My friend isn’t either, but after decades in an industry with a stigma surrounding mental health, his interest in that topic has been stifled.  

Recently, I sparked the conversation on a philosophical level by inquiring how he felt about businesses prioritizing mental well-being. He was supportive of this concept, however, when the discussion turned to mental health in construction, he was firm in his belief that mental health will never be paramount in the construction industry.

I can’t wait to prove him wrong.  

Leadership in the construction industry may have to overcome countless obstacles, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to implement mental health strategies in construction. As a leader, you have the power to transform the safety culture in your construction business. This begins by hiring a construction industry keynote speaker who will provide insight, strategies and support as you navigate the challenges of prioritizing mental health in construction.

Common Challenges and Stresses of Working in Construction

Construction workers face unique challenges, which means that leadership in the construction industry must be innovative in their approach to the mental health of construction workers. Before delving into strategies for transforming the construction industry’s safety culture, let’s explore some common problems and stressors of construction workers.

Change in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is fueled or stalled by the economy. The pandemic underscored this phenomenon as supply chain disruptions, fluctuating pricing and labor challenges impacted the industry. Change is a constant presence, and it massively impacts the construction industry. 

Working in volatile circumstances generates high levels of stress. 

Concern for the financial, physical and emotional well-being of employees is a heavy burden for a leader to bear. You do not have the power to change the economy, but you can influence how it affects your business by offering training and support to help employees develop skills to bounce forward through uncertainty.

High-Pressure Working Environment

Another stressor, and one my friend mentions often, is the high-pressure environment arising out of tight schedules, strict deadlines and clients’ ever-changing needs. While this is the norm in the construction industry, it’s challenging to handle without feeling stressed or frustrated.

One of the most dangerous problems of construction workers is the physical strain of heavy lifting, repetitive motion and exposure to extreme weather competing with the mental strain of a constant demand to complete jobs timely and perfectly, regardless of the working conditions. This constant pressure can cause fatigue, increased risk of injuries, anxiety and stress. 

The stressful conditions in the construction industry can have a lasting impact on workers’ physical and mental well-being.

Long Working Hours

Construction workers simply wish to do a good job, contribute to their community and earn a living to support their families. Often, the requirement for overtime work to meet project demands stands in the way of creating this work-life harmony. 

Setting aside dedicated time for recovery, rest, relaxation and being with loved ones is essential for overall well-being.  

Stress in the construction industry is impossible to eliminate. As a leader, it is crucial to recognize that employees can bounce forward through stress when they are equipped with the tools, resources and skills to effectively recover from it. I will delve into strategies leaders in the construction industry can implement to create a comprehensive health and safety plan that prioritizes mental health. 

Lack of Mental Health Support

If you ask any foreman in the construction industry to see their health and safety policy, they can immediately locate it. Despite the fact that most health and safety policies in the construction industry are extremely comprehensive, most neglect to address a prevalent health and safety issue. 

Mental health in the construction industry is typically overlooked. 

Insufficient support for navigating emotional challenges can cause employees to avoid dealing with stress and anxiety. Bottling up these emotions is not sustainable, and, eventually, they will bubble to the surface, causing significant issues that could have been mitigated.  

Safety Concerns

Physical safety is paramount in construction. Workers are exposed to hazardous environments and potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis. As a leader, you are cognizant of this and take precautionary measures to mitigate the possibility of physical harm on the job. 

Recognizing that you prioritize physical safety can alleviate some of your team’s concerns, but knowing that their life could be in peril on the job can cause a significant mental burden. Fear heightens anxiety and negatively impacts mental well-being. 

6 Ways to Prioritize Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Recognizing the massive challenges your teams face, while still providing timely and high-quality work, is key to enhancing their mental health. Addressing these issues is your responsibility, and it’s an opportunity to transform the construction industry’s safety culture. 

Implementing the following practical strategies for prioritizing mental health in construction can significantly improve employee well-being and create sustainable success for your business. 

1. Promote Open Communication

Promoting open communication should be one of the first factors you consider as you begin prioritizing mental health and well-being in construction. Fostering a sense of psychological safety and trust empowers employees to share their challenges and brainstorm solutions without fear of judgment. You and your leadership team should actively participate in this process to demonstrate approachability, active listening and support.   

When employees feel heard and understood, it builds resilience and enhances overall well-being, which will drive growth and success for your business.

2. Provide Mental Health Support

The most important part of supporting mental health in construction is demystifying its stigma. Promote mental health awareness and provide resources, such as working with a mental health keynote speaker, to encourage your team to speak honestly about their mental health concerns.  

This will contribute to creating a “Got Your Back” culture.  

This supportive culture is built on four crucial aspects of resilience, including the establishment of accountability structures and partnerships within the organization. As part of ensuring that nobody feels isolated in their mental health struggles, demonstrate your own vulnerability by discussing your experiences and how you handled them. This will inspire employees to explore their own mental health.  

By providing mental health support and building a resilient culture, you can empower teams to thrive, both personally and professionally.  

3. Build Resilience as a Core Value

Offering resilience training is key to empowering employees to bounce forward through stress, setbacks and challenges. Helping your construction teams to develop resilience is one of the most powerful things you can do to support their mental health.

Firstly, it’s important to view resilience as a core value, which means investing in workshops, seminars and training sessions that cultivate emotional intelligence, enhance problem-solving skills and promote effective communication. 

Secondly, you must establish standard operating practices and procedures that align with the core value of resilience. These practices should support the company’s commitment to creating holistic well-being. 

Thirdly, it is imperative to lead by example. Take care of yourself by establishing healthy boundaries and creating work-life harmony. When you prioritize well-being, your team will, too. And finally, encourage employees to engage in self-care activities and incorporate ways to do so in the workplace. This will cultivate a resilient culture where holistic well-being is paramount. 

Recently, I worked with a client, Shaw Flooring Company. As I tailored my construction industry keynote speaker series to address their specific needs, I kept my friend’s thoughts in mind. This aided me in delivering resilience-building strategies that made a profound impact. Leadership now prioritizes mental safety, and employees are equipped to handle the pressures and uncertainties of their roles. As mental and emotional health increased, so did performance and productivity. It was thrilling to be part of this incredible transformation and witness the growth that arose out of the company’s newfound resilience. 

4. Emphasize Safety Training and Protocols

As a leader, you recognize that employee safety is of utmost importance and implementing safety measures will further mitigate the potential danger that arises in hazardous working conditions. Emphasizing the importance of safety protects employees and offers them the peace of mind needed to manage the high-pressure demands of their job.

An important part of these safety protocols is providing comprehensive training to ensure employees understand how to adhere to them. Empowering construction workers with knowledge and effective procedures will reduce their stress and anxiety levels, allowing them to focus their energy on their work. 

5. Regular Job Demand Check-Ins and Workload Evaluations

It is crucial to ensure that your mental health initiatives are doing what you intended and enhancing employee well-being. You can leveraging employee feedback to assess job demands and workload and adapt your practices to assure continued effectiveness.

Doing so will prevent burnout and cultivate work-life harmony by reducing the negative effects of stress. Your attention and care to the needs of your team will increase job satisfaction, bolster productivity and increase efficiency. Ultimately, this will enhance overall well-being and enable your company to successfully meet clients’ needs, regardless of challenges that arise.

6. Recognition and Appreciation

Construction workers are often stereotyped as being uninterested in celebrating successes, which is typically far from the truth. They are people just like you and me who crave meaningful recognition for their accomplishments. 

Acknowledging their efforts will nurture resilience within the workforce

Regular positive reinforcement cultivates a sense of value and appreciation, which boosts morale and motivation. This will also foster loyalty, engagement and retention as workers are equipped to face challenges head-on.

Hiring a Construction Keynote Speaker is an Impactful Investment in the Mental Health of Your Team

I confess it felt good proving my friend wrong and demonstrating that the construction industry could be open to and transformed by prioritizing mental health. What felt even better, though, was when he chose to open up to me about his mental health struggles at work, and I could offer practical strategies for addressing them. 

Supported by the expert guidance of a mental health keynote speaker, you too can deploy techniques to build a culture of resilience where every employee’s well-being is paramount.

Together, we can conquer the stigma of mental health in construction and create a workplace culture where everyone thrives, one company at a time.