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Mental health and wellbeing within the UK construction industry

Learn about mental health and wellbeing within the UK construction industry.

Happy and sucessful construction team standing with confident outdoor at construction site

A business’s most valuable asset is its people, and with the extreme pressures experienced by the construction workforce post-COVID-19, the industry is raising the alarm on mental health.

Over the past few years, UK construction workers — particularly those that are self-employed — have experienced intense workloads and poor work-life balance. This, coupled with financial challenges due to both the economic environment and a stalling sector, has led to increases in stress and anxiety.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Building, 91% of construction workers in the UK have felt overwhelmed, with 26% having experienced suicidal thoughts.

As this mental health issue nears to boiling point, the sector is compelled to tackle the longstanding fact that this predominantly male workforce is reluctant to talk about mental health.

With 48% of construction workers currently taking time off due to unmanageable stress, addressing mental health and wellbeing is also key to building a company’s resilience, maintaining productivity, and protecting its bottom line.

This topic was addressed during the Marsh UK 2023 Construction Summit – The Future of Risk in November, by Lorna Feeney, Marsh Advisory’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Practice Leader, Mark Sharpe, Mercer’s Principal for Workplace Health Consulting Practice, and Marsh Mercer Benefits (MMB)’s Head of Industry for Construction, Sam Wallace. Below summarises ways to navigate mental health and wellbeing in the workplace for UK construction companies. The suggested approach focuses on strategy, governance, and communication.

 

Strategy

Construction companies should establish a clear vision for mental wellbeing within their workforces. They should also gain understanding of the current state of mental wellbeing among their workers. With this insight, they can establish how far away they are from their vision and what outcomes they will need in the short-, medium-, and long-term to achieve their vision.

For this benchmarking activity, companies can survey and interview workers. However, ahead of this activity, there will need to be a culture within the company of honesty and openness regarding mental health and wellbeing. Sharing the vision and goals will be key to this.

Governance

Once a strategic action plan has been created and shared, construction companies will need to embed it into company policies and procedures. As well as top-down buy-in and endorsement from the leadership and human resources, companies should explore setting up a health and wellbeing group.

These activities will go a long way in demonstrating the change in company culture when it comes to being open and honest about mental wellness. They will also provide a framework for monitoring progress and assessing the effectiveness of activities in supporting mental wellness.

Communication

An internal communication plan will be needed to ensure that the message is filtering through all levels of the company. As well as messaging, communication is a good area for showcasing action. Mental health and wellbeing champions can be instated as beacons for events and activities, and for sharing key information. These individuals may be leadership sponsors or representatives from human resources. They could also act as key points of call for those wanting to reach out due to mental health issues. If champions are to act as a triage of sorts, they will need training to ensure they are well equipped to manage this responsibility.

Interventions

To ensure this activity is effective, construction companies will need a plan of action for when their workers step forward for support. For many, their first point of contact will be their line manager. For this reason, managers will need extensive training to deal with these conversations — much like the mental wellness champions. This is especially true in teams or departments where managers have also expressed challenges with their own mental wellness.

As there will be a large proportion of the workforce who may not come forward with their mental wellness challenges, providing support through e-learning could provide an effective way to help many individuals.

Companies should also consider providing health and protection benefits, and an employee assistance programme (EAP).

Promoting the availability of these services and encouraging their use will be essential to the success of creating a culture of mental wellbeing within construction companies and the industry as a whole.

For further discussion about people risk and the mental wellbeing of your workforce, please contact your Marsh representative or visit Mercer.

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