Whether your role is out at the precast yard pouring large beams for a major infrastructure project, or a graduate project engineer looking after quality documentation in the project office, or a project director looking after the whole project, you are probably highly focused on the technical aspects of your job. 

You may be focused on such things as eliminating safety hazards, or meeting the strict project budgets and deadlines, or ensuring a quality product is being properly documented, delivered and built, or all of the above!

But are you also thinking about how you play a role in the industry culture, or how it may be negatively impacting you?  Let’s discuss why this should be top of mind.

(Source:  NVC Precast – roadsonline.com.au)



The construction industry culture is well known as being highly stressful.  Changes have been made, mainly in the compliance space, but nothing much has changed over the decades.  So, what needs to be done?  That’s what the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) wanted to understand.

Back in 2018, the Culture in Construction initiative was established by the CICT which is part of the Australian Contractors Association (ACA).  The ACA is represented by Tier 1 construction firms, Government (NSW and Victoria only), and leading workplace researchers.  The CICT commissioned BIS Oxford Economics to figure out the extent of the culture problem.  In September of this year the Cost of Doing Nothing Report by was published.



The headline key take-aways of the “Cost of Doing Nothing Report” are not surprising to any of us working in the industry, but the costs are beyond staggering.  The report outlines the key take-aways as:

  • Wellbeing
    • People working in the industry are twice as likely to commit suicide than the national average.
  • Stress
    • Almost a quarter of the people are working more than 50 hours per week.
    • Long and inflexible work hours are a substantial conflict to work-family conflict.
  • Diversity
    • There is a very low participation of women in the industry. Women make up only 12% of the industry workforce which leads to issues of not being able to attract and retain women.
    • Low female representation is costing the industry in benefits such as decreasing aggressive behaviour, improved attention to detail and improved communication.


The Impact

The overall cost?  A conservative estimate of $8b which is the cost to the economy due to workplace injuries, mental illness, suicide, long hours worked and lack of diversity due to the current culture.

Several questions you may be asking yourself:


How does this impact me and why should I care?

It was reported that 75% of us working in the construction industry reported moderate to high stress levels, with 46% of us experiencing burn-out.  Almost half of us are experiencing burnout!!!  That in itself is enough to say we all need to care, because if you are not in burn out then someone on your team is!

(Source:  Infrastructure Magazine)

As you can imagine these impacts are far reaching.   They can affect an industry in many ways: at an economic level due to lower productivity; at an organisational level with lower profit margins, and at an individual level with presenteeism/absenteeism.  These impacts may flow on to affect your superannuation, perhaps your salary and bonus, even down to how we treat each other (we don’t treat each other well when we don’t feel well), to the stress you are carrying back home with you at night (yep, we also have a high divorce rate unfortunately).

We need to care because it is impacting all of us in one way or another.

I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.”

– Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently


What can I do about it?

“There is nothing I can do about that as I am just one person” is the way most people respond.  Perhaps you aren’t in a role that can have any immediate impact on working less hours, or the hiring of personnel.

So, let’s look at it from a different perspective and focus on what each of us CAN do to change the culture.  We can all start with developing a better approach to our own wellbeing.  And since this was identified as one of the biggest challenges in the Culture Report, it could have the largest impact!

To make a change today you can develop and implement your own self-care plan.


Self-Care Plan

Putting a self-care plan into place can take as little as 10 minutes.  Think about the four types of health noted below and think about activities that you like to do that makes you feel good.

  • Physical: Walk on site or go for a walk after work. Go to the gym.  Mow the lawn. Go fishing with the kids.
  • Mental/Emotional: Watch a You Tube/Tik Tok video that makes you laugh (and then share it with a friend).  Read an inspirational book/blog/FB post.  Cook a meal together with the family.  Download a wellbeing app/podcast and listen to for 10 minutes.
  • Social: Call a mate.  Have a cuppa with a colleague.  Invite a friend over that you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Spiritual: Take time to notice something that brings you joy.  Listen to favourite music. Write in a journal. Meditate / do deep breathing for 5-10 minutes.

After you have noted down activities that you like to do under each one of these headings, decide which days you’ll do at least one activity.  You might decide to do deep breathing in your car 10 minutes before you go into the office.  Then walk at lunch with a mate around the site.  Perhaps cook a meal with the family on Saturday nights.  Whatever you decide, make sure it’s what you like to do and brings you joy.  This is putting on your own oxygen mask on first.  Commit yourself to doing one thing on the list every day.  Then after the activity, reflect on the joy it brings you and celebrate looking after YOU.  Well done mate!  That’s it!

It is well researched that when we show up in a better mood and feeling better about ourselves, it also has a direct impact on others by being able to build more positive relationships, which fosters trust and connectedness.  Trust and connectedness are both key to building a strong cohesive team and a safe environment.

If you put together a wellbeing plan together and properly look after yourself, will this instantly solve the $8B problem?  Of course not.  Will it start to positively influence those around you, and help make you feel better?  Absolutely.


Ripple Challenge – Impact

Lean in.  Start to tackle this challenge today with one small step by implementing a self-care plan. Spend 5-10 minutes today by sketching out a plan based on the above.  Share it with someone in your inner circle – partner/spouse, best mate, kids, who will help you be accountable to yourself.  This will start a positive ripple in your life.  Your future self will thank you!


“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving and that’s your own self.”

Aldous Huxley

If you or someone you know is struggling for an extended time, please remember that help is always available 24 hours a day.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1 300 22 4636

MensLine Australia 1 300 78 99 78