ANZ’s construction workers shoulder a unique set of challenges that can impact their mental health. Long hours, physically demanding work and the pressure of deadlines are common – and all contribute to a culture of stress and vulnerability.
For construction firms, it is essential to recognise and prioritise mental well-being for a safer, more productive environment for workers.
Mental health in construction is a challenge, with more than 20% of construction workers known to have experienced a mental health condition. Conditions range from anxiety and depression to stress-related disorders, and often stem from the demanding nature of the work, job insecurity and long hours spent on-site.
However, construction workers have historically faced an even more alarming statistic: a greater risk of taking their own lives. Research by MATES in Construction has shown increased suicide mortality in construction workers relative to other workers in Australia. It’s a sobering and disheartening fact that Australia loses one construction worker every two days to suicide.
On a brighter note, the study also saw a steady decline in suicide rates among construction workers since 2001. Edward Ross, director of TIACS, a tactical, non-profit counseling service attributes this decline to increased awareness of mental health and well-being, as more individuals and organisations recognise its importance in the workplace.
Ross noted that, “Starting conversations about mental health and helping change the culture around help-seeking behaviour are key to long-term industry success. Thankfully, we now live in a time where people understand the importance of mental health.”
While the decline is encouraging, it still underscores the importance of meaningful change to safeguard the mental health of construction workers. Australian contractors need to invest in and prioritise the mental health of their team members, and themselves. Mental health in construction is an issue that requires time and investment – including both financial and non-financial.
Invest in employee mental health and well-being
Investment in the mental well-being of your workers is not only a moral obligation – it’s a smart business decision. In an industry that relies heavily on the performance of its workforce, prioritising mental health should be a top consideration for construction business owners.
Mentally unhealthy workplaces cost Australia up to $39 billion each year due to lost participation and productivity. Companies that invest in mental well-being initiatives are more likely to have employees who focus better on tasks, make fewer errors and contribute to smoother project execution, cost savings and increased profitability.
The effects of mental health cost Australian businesses $4.7 billion per annum in absenteeism. Investing in culture and the well-being of employees can help reduce the frequency of absenteeism and your firm’s employee turnover rate, saving on recruitment and training costs.
Companies that invest in their employees’ mental health realize additional benefits, including fewer workplace accidents, which decrease potential legal and financial liabilities associated with workplace injuries. Safer workplaces also lead to a positive workplace culture and high employee morale.
All of these factors help attract top talent, build positive client relationships and open doors to new opportunities.
Make your team’s mental health a priority
Simply put: invest in your people. Prioritise your employees.
“In the past as a society, we haven’t done a great job educating people in help-seeking behaviour or upskilling them in relationships and finance,” said Ross.
“We’re starting to see the repercussions now. From an organisational perspective, there is often a major disconnect between a person’s productivity and the reinvestment into that person to maintain said productivity.”
“Organisations need to make a larger investment in people and culture to ensure staff longevity and well-being, and to maintain their bottom line. If your staff turnover is high and you’re struggling to meet project deadlines, you’re in big trouble!”
That said, Ross identified four key areas that construction firms can prioritise to support workers on and off the job site:
- Educate and build awareness by providing access to training, workshops, employee assistance programs and hotlines.
- Promote work-life balance by encouraging reasonable working hours and discouraging excessive overtime, where possible. Consider shifting to a four-day work week.
- Host employee check-ins to ensure managers are talking to their employees regularly about their well-being, workload and any issues they face.
- Provide feedback mechanisms which create channels for employees to provide feedback anonymously or otherwise, allowing them to voice concerns or suggest improvements.
Ross notes that leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage change.
“You ultimately can’t force people to prioritise mental well-being,” he cautioned. “All you can do is set a strong example and hope others do the same.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please consult with a licensed mental health professional or contact a crisis helpline immediately. Your mental health is important, and there is help available.
By Andrew Tucker, Product Manager APAC at Trimble
Andrew Tucker is the Product Manager APAC at Trimble, a connected construction management software leader whose SaaS solutions help contractors around the world operate more efficiently, safely, sustainably and predictably. He can be reached at email@example.com
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