Working in the construction industry can be a dream job for many. But it is also a notoriously stressful industry. The pressure is so high, in fact, that many workers and business owners take their own lives.
In 2019, mental health charity, Mates in Mind, highlighted the sector’s mental health issues in a short film about a construction veteran called Chris. He had been working in the sector for more than thirty years. But following an uptick in his stress levels deep into his career, he took his own life. The tragedy caused extreme heartache for this family.
What was so disturbing about Chris’s case is that he never experienced any mental health issues in his life before. One day, the pressures of his job just got too much and sent him over the edge.
Chris wasn’t alone in his suffering. According to the Office for National Statistics, the suicide rate through workplace stress within the construction industry is around three times the national average. Data reveal that around two workers per day take their own lives in the industry.
Why are suicides higher in the construction industry?
Managers and executives in the industry took Chris’s story to heart. For them, it sent a clear message that leaders needed to do more to support their employees. Workplace support and guidance might help improve the sector’s suicide numbers and prevent such tragedies in the future.
But there may also be deeper issues at play than just the stress of the work. For instance, Roofing Today – a magazine that covers issues in the construction industry – suggests that a cultural problem might be driving the suicide rate higher. There’s an “alpha male” attitude pervasive in many firms, they say, that encourages men to just “get on with the job” and not focus on their inner state. This environment means that many workers can’t come forward and share how they feel. They just have to “toughen up,” even if they can’t, leading to isolation.
Mates in Mind says that the construction sector needs to adopt long-term change that fosters new approaches to working. It is making remarkable progress on the physical safety side of things, but performing poorly on the mental health front. The Office of National Statistics says that it is the worst-performing sector in the UK economy. Thus, it needs to align itself with other industries – such as the financial sector – that are using advanced techniques to mitigate workplace stress. Firms should adopt a duty of care to their employees’ overall health, particularly low-skilled workers.
Business owners and Leaders need to do more to help employees
If you are a business owner then you have a duty of care to support your employees and address mental health issues within the workplace. This can be tough within the construction sector as workers are reluctant to seek help or discuss how they feel.
There is help out there however to help achieve long term change. Mates in Mind have resources available which are a great starting point in helping to change the culture surrounding workplace stress within the construction industry. The CITB also have close links with Lighhouse Charity to provide help and support.
Business Owners and leaders need help too!
With so much energy being put in to helping the workforce, it’s very easy to overlook the wellbeing of business owners. Being responsible for your workforce’s mental health and wellbeing can very often lead to neglect of your own.
More than half of the construction industry work as self employed workers or small businesses with a loyal workforce. Winning regular work at the right margins can be very difficult. The lack of job security and worry about keeping their themselves and their teams going can lead to significantly poor mental health.
If, as a business owner, you are struggling with mental health and stress in the construction industry, you can’t afford to wait for the sector to change. You can get the business support you need right now from experienced business mentors who have been through similar situations themselves.
Business mentors can provide guidance and methods of thinking that can help you to manage your mental state and in turn provide a more positive working environment for those around you. They can help you curb work-related stress by giving much need support, before it completely takes control of your life.
Workplace stress is a real phenomenon that can lead people to dark places. Many business owners feel trapped but their only option is to soldier through.
When you open up and talk to other people who’ve run their own businesses and gone through what you’re experiencing it can be a real support. Your mental processes change. Suddenly, you realise that you can talk to other people about how you’re feeling without the fear of being made to feel ‘weak’.
You do have real options to get help and support to enable you and your business to move forwards in a positive direction. That’s why business mentoring to help work-related stress is such a life-saver.
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